The Western Force is reportedly under pressure to keep its spot in the Super Rugby competition.
The Western Force is reportedly under pressure to keep its spot in the Super Rugby competition. LUKAS COCH

Super Rugby team cull would cut Australia to four

One Australian team will be axed from Super Rugby as the bloated competition returns to 15 teams, according to a report from New Zealand's 1 NEWS.

Senior rugby journalist Andrew Saville reported that two South African teams, including the Kings, would be cut, along with one from Australia.

If correct, it would be a win for New Zealand Rugby, which argued for a return to 15 teams at last week's SANZAAR meeting in London.

The competition would then be comprised of five New Zealand teams, four each from Australia and South Africa, and one apiece from Argentina and Japan.

Super Rugby was a 15-team competition between 2011 and 2015.

Argentina's Jaguares, Japan's Sunwolves and the Kings were introduced to the expanded competition last season and all performed poorly.

A reduction in teams could mean a return to a simple round-robin system in which every side plays each other once, although the travel demands would be punishing on players.

It would also spell heartbreak for one Australian team - the Force, the Rebels or the Brumbies - and South Africa's Cheetahs would also appear at risk.

The Force would be the easiest team for the Australian Rugby Union to axe, given the ARU currently owns and operate the side.

The Force has never made the play-offs but the side if showing some signs of life this season under bright new coach Dave Wessels.

The Brumbies have had off-field troubles in recent times but on the park they are Australia's most successful franchise and have won two Super Rugby titles.

The privately owned Rebels, meanwhile, have made an atrocious start to the 2017 season, suffering humiliating losses to the Blues and Hurricanes.

The Rebels have also never made the play-offs.

But club owner Andrew Cox has expressed extreme confidence that the Melbourne side is safe from any potential cull.

Former Wallaby Glen Ella, meanwhile, has argued in favour of a reduction to four Australian teams, with the Brumbies and Rebels then merging.

The competition was particularly lopsided last season, as Kiwi teams dominated, and the same trend is continuing after three rounds in 2017.

"Following two days of robust discussion there are a number of tournament considerations that now require further discussion and consultation," SANZAAR's South African chief executive Andy Marinos said in a statement on Saturday.

"SANZAAR will make a formal statement on the future of the organisation, Super Rugby and the tournament format in the coming days once these further meetings have been concluded."

The Daily Telegraph reported that broadcasters in the four member nations (South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina), including Fox Sports, were reviewing the proposal and would meet relevant rugby bosses later this week to discuss any overhaul.

News Corp Australia

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