New Zealand Rugby is set to continue with Super Rugby Aotearoa in 2021, but is looking to expand the competition with at least three teams from 2022.
Following the confirmation that SA Rugby is intent on pursuing a move to the northern hemisphere with PRO Rugby, New Zealand Rugby is looking to progress its own plans for the domestic calendar for 2021 and beyond.
According to an exclusive report in the New Zealand Herald, the 2021 edition of Super Rugby Aotearoa will continue with five New Zealand franchises playing each other on a home-and-away basis. However, next year a final will be added to the competition.
New Zealand Rugby is also reportedly looking into crossover home-and-away matches with the five Australian Super Rugby AU franchises, but still need to reach an agreement with Rugby Australia.
From 2022 onwards, NZR is looking to expand their domestic tournament and, according to the report, add a minimum of three teams. NZR has received eight expressions of interest to join the competition, but consider only four worth pursuing.
One of the teams will be from the Pacific region, with NZR getting bids from Kanaloa Hawaii – a team backed by former All Blacks – and a Pasifika Moana team out of South Auckland, which would be governed by representatives from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.
Another team that could be included is the Fiji Drua side, who won Australia’s domestic competition in 2018 and is based in Suva.
The report also states that NZR has reached an agreement with Andrew Forrest to include the Western Force in their expansion. The Force returned to Australia’s Super Rugby competition this year, but prior to that competed in Global Rapid Rugby.
Due to the fractured relationship between Rugby Australia and NZR, no other Australian team applied to be a part of the tournament. Rugby Australia earlier this year took offence to NZR’s plans for an eight-to-10 team tournament in 2021, which would have left space for just three Australian teams at the most.
A final team that could be included is the South China Lions, a team formed from a partnership between the Bay of Plenty rugby union and the China Rugby Football Association. The Lions would reportedly play out of both the Bay of Pleny as well as Hong Kong and Shanghai.
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