Super Rugby: Sunwolves move to Aussie Conference

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 06:16
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NEWS: Japan's Super Rugby outfit the Sunwolves has been moved to the Australian Conference for the revamped Super Rugby tournament in 2018. 

The SANZAAR Executive Committee (Exco) has released the match schedule for the restructured 2018 Super Rugby tournament. As announced in April this year the 2018 Super Rugby tournament will change from an 18-team, four conference format to a 15-team, three conference format.

Each team will play 16 Conference matches that include eight matches within their own Conference (home and away) and four matches against teams from each of the other Conferences (home or away). 

The 2018 Super Rugby tournament starts on Saturday, February 17 when the South African Conference kicks-off with the Stormers hosting the Jaguares in Cape Town. The Lions, runners-up the last two years, host the Sharks in Johannesburg, while Bulls have a bye.

The Australian and New Zealand Conferences will kick-off a week later when the defending champions the Crusaders open the defence of their title at home against the Chiefs. The Brumbies, last year's Australian Conference winner, open the season against the Sunwolves in Tokyo who are now positioned in the Australian Conference. 

"Super Rugby is one of, if not the best rugby tournaments in the world highlighted this year by a global TV audience of nearly 50 million and a final crowd in Johannesburg of 60 000," said SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos.

"It is a key high-performance pathway for players from the SANZAAR Unions to transition from franchise to Test rugby, and this will continue to be the case in the future."

Marinos said it was a difficult decision to cut the Cheetahs, Southern Kings and the Western Force from Super Rugby.

"It was not an easy decision to reduce the number of teams but a necessary one considering the outputs from the strategic review to date. 

"The tournament was not working with 18 teams, the structure was confusing, the outcomes of matches were becoming too predictable and the fans and stakeholders had, through our surveys, voiced their concerns.

"SANZAAR respects that as a consequence of this Australia and South Africa have had to make some very hard decisions since our announcement in April that 2018 would revert to 15 teams. It is a difficult time for many in this respect particularly those within the affected teams and their fans. We understand the outpouring of disappointment and associated passion shown for these teams. To not have done anything would have been irresponsible and would have had a significant impact on the long-term sustainability of the game within our markets."

Marinos is hoping for more competitive matches in the revamped tournament.

"Our focus is now on rolling out the restructured tournament which we believe will improve standards, competitiveness, and interest. By re-establishing a strong base for Super Rugby through a consolidated tournament format, that maximises the potential in the markets in which we currently play, it will allow us to open up new markets through specific match placements and working strategically with our TV broadcasters in the future.

"The future of SANZAAR, like any business, is linked to the delivery of a long-term strategic plan. In SANZAAR's case a 10-year plan that was initiated in 2016 with the aim of delivering the strategic road map for the management of Super Rugby and The Rugby Championship.

"What has been missing is the rugby conversation as we cannot hide away from the high performance and financial realities of the game in the markets in which we play. The teams that have not performed need to start producing a more attractive brand of rugby that re-engages fans, produces competitive results and winning performances. We have a great tournament but what is needed now is the talking to be done on the field as enough opinion and perspective has been provided off the field.

"In addition to the decisions that were taken around the Australian and South African Conferences, SANZAAR has also been working hard with Japan and the Sunwolves. Their performances over the first two seasons have been disappointing and improvement is required. A structural reform has been implemented where responsibility for the Sunwolves will move from the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) to the entity known as Japan Super Rugby Association (JSRA). SANZAAR will be taking a more proactive role within its operating structures.

"I wish to acknowledge and thank all our broadcasters for their support and positive contribution to SANZAAR through this period. We are confident that Super Rugby has a long and exciting future ahead of it."

Conferences:

New Zealand Conference:
Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders, Hurricanes.

Australian Conference:
Brumbies, Rebels, Reds, Waratahs, Sunwolves.

South African Conference: 
Bulls, Lions, Sharks, Stormers, Jaguares.

Click HERE for 2018 Super Rugby match schedule.

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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 22 December 2017
Worcester Warriors v London Irish 19h45 Sixways
Sat, 23 December 2017
Treviso v Zebre 14h00 Stadio Monigo
Newcastle Falcons v Harlequins 15h00 Kingston Park
Northampton Saints v Exeter Chiefs 15h00 Franklin's Gardens
Sale Sharks v Bath 15h00 AJ Bell Stadium
Wasps v Gloucester 15h00 Ricoh Arena
Edinburgh v Glasgow Warriors 17h10 BT Murrayfield
Connacht v Ulster 19h35 Sportsground
Sun, 24 December 2017
Leicester Tigers v Saracens 15h00 Welford Road
SUPER RUGBY
MORE LOGS
Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Brumbies 15 6 0 9 34
Force 15 6 0 9 26
Reds 15 4 0 11 21
Waratahs 15 4 0 11 19
Rebels 15 1 1 13 9
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Crusaders 15 14 0 1 63
Hurricanes 15 12 0 3 58
Chiefs 15 12 1 2 57
Highlanders 15 11 0 4 51
Blues 15 7 1 7 37
Pool SA1
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 15 10 0 5 43
Cheetahs 15 4 0 11 21
Bulls 15 4 0 11 20
Sunwolves 15 2 0 13 12
Pool SA2
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 15 14 0 1 65
Sharks 15 9 1 5 42
Jaguares 15 7 0 8 33
Kings 15 6 0 9 28