1. Teams and conferences.
· The “conference” is a new addition to Super Rugby, but is basically an easy way of dividing teams up into their respective countries. SANZAR consists of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, and in the new Super Rugby competition, each country – or conference – will have five teams.
· Teams will play in the overall competition as before, but will also find themselves in a mini-competition against their own compatriots to determine each conference’s winner.
· The 14 teams from the Super 14 have been retained, and Australia won the right for the 15th team, as the Melbourne Rebels will enter Super Rugby for the first time under the coaching leadership of former World Cup winning coach Rod Macqueen this year.
· Each team will play 16 games through the season, eight home and eight away. But in contrast to the Super 14, your team will play the other teams in your conference (country) on a home and away basis. For instance, the Stormers will face the Sharks, Lions, Bulls and Cheetahs home and away through the season.
· Intermingled with this are the international matches. To keep the international flavour, each team will play four of the five teams in the other conferences. i.e. The Stormers will face four of the five Australian teams and four of the five New Zealand teams during the season on a ONE-OFF basis.
· This means each team will play 12 of its 16 regular-season games within its own country – with only four matches overseas.
· Half of all regular season matches will be local derbies
· To put it in a nutshell, there are now four logs to watch. Each conference (country) has its own “internal” log whereby the conference winner will be chosen.
· Then there is an overall log, which encompasses all 15 teams and from which the other three qualifiers will be chosen.
· Each conference (country) winner will be guaranteed a playoff spot. However, if you look at the overall log, the two conference (country) winners who finish higher, will claim home semifinal places.
· The lowest ranked of the three conference winners will face a playoff – a virtual quarterfinal if you like – at home against a wildcard qualifier.
· While it is technically true that one country – say Australia – can have a nightmare season with its teams finishing 11th to 15th and still claim a playoff spot, this is unlikely to happen.
· The top two teams then have a bye, while the third conference winner and three qualifiers battle it out for a semifinal spot in a virtual quarterfinals.
· The three qualifying teams will be the highest placed teams on the overall log, irrespective of what countries they come from.
· Thus, using the example on the left, the Bulls, Hurricanes and Brumbies would win their respective conferences.
· If you compare these three sides’ overall points you will see the Bulls and Hurricanes would qualify first and second and therefore have the right to host home semifinals in the competition.
· The Brumbies, by virtue of finishing the lowest of the three conference winners, would get a home playoff game.
· The other three teams will be decided by points, irrespective of their countries, and looking at the example again, this means the Stormers, Waratahs and Crusaders would qualify fourth, fifth and sixth in the playoff set-up.
· In the playoff round the Brumbies, who qualified third, would face the sixth placed qualifier, ie the Crusaders in Canberra. The Stormers would host the Waratahs in Cape Town.
· We’ve already established the Bulls and Hurricanes would host home semifinals in this example.
· But to determine who plays who in the semifinal is another matter, as the competition rules state the highest-ranked qualifier would play the team ranked second. This means should the Brumbies (3rd) win their playoff game, they would face the Hurricanes, with the winner of the other game facing the Bulls.
· However, should the Brumbies lose to the Crusaders, then the Hurricanes would face the highest ranked team, ie the winner of the other playoff game.
· The Bulls would automatically face the lowest ranked qualifier, showing how important it would be to top the log and the reward that goes with it.
· After all of the above has played itself out, the final will be at the home ground of the highest ranked side. Obviously if the team ranked top of the log qualifies, they will get a home final.
· But if say the sixth (Crusaders) and fourth (Stormers) sides qualify for the final, then it will be at the fourth placed side (Stormers) home ground.
Keep those calculators handy and remember to log onto SuperSport.com, where we will keep you updated with your team’s progress throughout the tournament.