SANZAAR announces changes to Rugby Championship format

FILE - In this Aug. 10, 2019, file photo, South Africa trammates celebrate at the end of a rugby championship match against Argentina in Salta, Argentina. Rugby Championship organizers SANZAAR on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, have given the World Cup champion South Africa an additional 48 hours to decide whether they will compete in the four-nation tournament in Australia from next month. (AP Photo/Florencia Tanjun, File)
FILE PHOTO: South Africa celebrates at the end of a rugby championship match against Argentina in Salta, Argentina. (AP Photo/Florencia Tanjun, File)

SANZAAR, the body which oversees Super Rugby and The Rugby Championship competitions, announced a revision of its strategic plan to offer a new direction for rugby and the joint-venture organisation.

SANZAAR confirmed that The Rugby Championship will continue to be the flagship of southern hemisphere rugby for the next 10 years and its four members (New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina) had committed their futures for that period.

The Championship will be restructured to include a 12-match format with teams playing each other on a home or away basis through the new mini-tour match schedule adopted last year.

The announcement is the first part of a “phased progression” process within the organization.

“The southern hemisphere rugby powers have recognised the need for change in these difficult times and have committed to an international rugby future through to 2030 that includes a restructuring of the SANZAAR entity, a brand refresh, new development initiatives and a restructuring of domestic club/provincial tournament structures,” SANZAAR said in a statement.

SANZAAR acknowledged a change was necessary following the “dramatic changes” in the world of sport due to the coronavirus pandemic and its continued influence.

SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos said the re-commitment by the four unions was “an important start” for the coming years.

“This is the first of a number of announcements that will be made over the coming weeks and months as we continue to plan into 2021 and beyond.”

The Rugby Championship, now reorganized as a Tri-Nations tournament involving Australia, New Zealand and Argentina, is currently underway.

New Zealand beat Australia in the opening match last weekend and, in doing so, retained the Bledisloe Cup that is contested between the Trans-Tasman rivals.