SANZAAR defend Super Rugby format

SANZAAR have defended the play-off system in Super Rugby in a statement ahead of the final round of regular season matches.

Speculation earlier this week suggested that the governing body were looking to alter the qualification system for the play-offs ahead of next season following the dominance of New Zealand's sides in this year's competition.

SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos however explained that the format would not be changed after just one year in a statement on Thursday.

The statement read: "The Super Rugby competition conference format was agreed by the SANZAAR Executive Board that oversees Super Rugby.

"We presently have an 18-team competition that sees eight teams qualifying for the finals through this conference system.

"The finals qualification process sees the four conference winners automatically progress to the quarter-finals as hosts. The winners of the Australian, New Zealand, South Africa 1 and South Africa 2 conferences will therefore host finals. This is consistent with similar conference competition structures in the world of sport.

"The remaining four places are determined by a wild card system that will see four teams qualify for the quarter-finals to play the conference winners. This wildcard system delivers the Australia/New Zealand Group three teams and one team from the South Africa Group.

"This year through this system four New Zealand teams will qualify for the finals (conference winner and three wild cards) out of the five teams competing in Super Rugby. This is due reward for these teams based on their regular season results.

"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.  

"However, SANZAAR stands by the existing qualification process. A tournament’s qualification criteria cannot be determined on one years’ 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."