Sanzaar says it stands by the existing qualification process for the Super Rugby tournament.
Under the current, much-criticised 18-team format, the winners of the four conferences – Africa 1, Africa 2, Australia and New Zealand – will host quarter-finals. This means that only one of the five qualifying Kiwi teams will have home-ground advantage next weekend, with some of them having to travel to play teams that have fewer competition points.
In a press release on Thursday, Sanzaar CEO Andy Marinos, formerly of SA Rugby, pointed out that the Super Rugby conference format was agreed by the Sanzaar executive board that oversees the tournament.
'Unfortunately there has been conjecture that the hosting criteria for the quarter-finals is unfair, largely based on the exceptional form of the New Zealand teams,' said Marinos. 'However, Sanzaar stands by the existing qualification process. A tournament’s qualification criteria cannot be determined on one year's results in isolation.
'Super Rugby is one of the world’s best rugby tournaments and this year’s final series is set to be exceptional, as the best teams have risen to the top through the regular season. This is reflected in the fact that going into the final round this weekend seven of the nine matches will have a direct bearing on the make-up of the quarter-finals.'
However, Sanzaar recently asked consulting firm Accenture to do a strategic review of the two-group, four-conference Super Rugby format and provide a road map for the next 10 years.
The current Super Rugby broadcast deal will conclude at the end of the 2019 season, so a new format could only be introduced from the 2020 season.
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