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Marinos rubbishes Super Rugby breakaway talk

Curwin Bosch of the Sharks kicks during the round 12 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and Sharks (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Reports of a breakaway competition involving only Australian and New Zealand Super Rugby clubs have been rejected as speculation by Sanzaar’s chief executive Andy Marinos.

With both New Zealand and Australia managing to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, reports had circulated of a possible tournament involving just the Super Rugby teams from those countries. The competition usually also involves teams from South Africa, Argentina and Japan.

According to an AFP report, Marinos said, “Any new competition structure would have to be agreed upon by each of the alliance’s partners and that, as of Monday, no individual Union had formed a splinter plan to break away from the current provincial or Test formats.” Marinos heads the central body of Sanzaar, which is an alliance of the major Southern Hemisphere rugby unions and manages the Super Rugby and Rugby Championship competitions.

Super Rugby has been halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic and looks unlikely to resume this year given the long-distance travel and other logistical challenges involved.

The tournament was already set for major change next season, with a move to a 14-team, round-robin format, and the departure of the Japan-based Sunwolves.

Sanzaar has already agreed a media rights deals for the 2021-25 period, based on existing planned competition formats, with pay-television broadcaster Sky New Zealand, via a deal with New Zealand Rugby. A deal was also understood to be close in sub-Saharan Africa between Rugby South Africa and pay-television broadcaster SuperSport. These deals would presumably have to be unpicked  in the event of a major format change for Super Rugby.

Australia’s players have long-advocated for a shift to a ‘trans-Tasman’ competition – that is, one that features teams from Australia and New Zealand only – or a format that incorporates Pacific Islands and Asia.