Broadcasters push radical shake-up of Super Rugby, Rugby Championship

And at Super Rugby level it argues for a pool of ‘marquee players’ be able to move across the SANZAAR nations without it impacting their Test eligibility, as well as all Super Rugby teams featuring their home city or region in their names.

There would also be themed rounds across the competition, a single sponsor for Super Rugby and consistent time slots in each nation.

Neither Rugby Australia nor SANZAAR would comment when contacted by the Herald. The proposed changes are for 2021 and beyond, and a new format may not be announced for some time.

While there are still hopes World Rugby secures support for its annual global competition proposal – the Nations Championship – the southern-hemisphere nations have been hard at work on their plan B.

Central to that is the Rugby Championship, the four-nation Test competition run over three two-Test blocks between the Wallabies, Pumas, All Blacks and Springboks in August and September.

Once considered the best Test championship in the world in its Tri Nations days, its star has fallen as its northern rival the Six Nations has risen.

The broadcasters are proposing an overhaul, including scrapping the two-week blocks in favour of moving to a “tours focused calendar, akin to the June series” that would run from August to October.

The Springboks would tour Australia for two Tests in a row, for example, bringing across an expanded squad to make possible midweek games against Super Rugby sides.

Those fixtures would give the states an opportunity to make up for the loss of one or two home games in Super Rugby, a change with an estimated price tag of $7 million a year across the four Australian teams, the document says.

The Super Rugby tweaks could have large flow-on effects for all the southern hemisphere countries, all of which are battling a talent drain to the cashed-up competitions in Japan, France and the UK.

The ‘marquee player’ concept is effectively proposing a safe zone for the movement of players, allowing them to move overseas but to countries in the same competition, meaning no schedule clashes and a closer high performance relationship. Having Australians playing in South African teams, for instance, could also help boost interest in the traditionally poorly-watched games between South African and Australian teams.

Georgina Robinson is the chief rugby reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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