Australia and South Africa to lose Super Rugby teams

The tournament will revert from 18 teams to 15 next year

Australia and South Africa to lose Super Rugby teams

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Super Rugby, the southern hemisphere's premier rugby union club competition is to undergo a radical redesign next season.

Three teams will be cut from the tournament next year, with Australia losing one team and South Africa losing two. The competition will revert from 18 teams to 15.

The 2016 tournament saw Argentina and Japan enter teams in the competition for the first time, with the Jaguares and Sunwolves competing. As a result of the expansion, South Africa also an additional team in the tournament, with the Southern Kings returning to the competition.

On Sunday it was announced that the format will return to 15 teams from the start of next season, in a bid to return to the tournament's most successful format.

The tournament will be split into three conferences of five teams, with each team playing a guaranteed 16 games, with eight of those coming in home-and-away matches against teams in their conference.

New Zealand Conference
Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders, Hurricanes

Australian Conference
Four Australian teams (TBC), Sunwolves

South Africa Conference
Four South Africa teams (TBC), Jaguares

While news of the format change will come as a shock to Australian and South African teams, three teams will be expected to shut their doors at the end of the season.

"This decision has not been an easy one and we recognise the difficulty associated with reducing the number of teams in Australia and South Africa", SANZAAR Chairman Brent Impey said. "Naturally we understand that there will be some very disappointed franchises but the tournament’s long-term future and the economic reality of the business at present is something that had to be addressed."

In Australia, the Melbourne Rebels and Western Force look most vulnerable, having both only being established in the past 11 years. In South Africa, Southern Kings and the Central Cheetahs are the two newest sides, in the league and both could be at risk.