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How the Super 15 will work

I know it is a bit early to discuss but save this article as a guideline. Not all is revealed yet but this is what is known about the Super 15

The format for the Super15 is not yet completely set in stone because the dates have not yet been released but this is what we know so far. Once the fixtures are released it will make more sense.
There will be three pools or geographic conferences each containing five teams.
Australia, South Africa and New Zealand will each host one pool and the new 15th team will participate in the Australian pool.
The new team is from Melbourne and they are the Melbourne Rebels.
The tournament will start in late February each year with a couple of exceptions.

In 2011 and other world cup years the tournament will start earlier to make space for the world cup.

British and Irish Lions tour years (ie. 2013) could also see the tournament being forced to start two to three weeks earlier.

Super 15 phase one
The tournament will start with a series of teams playing the other teams in their own conference. Teams will not travel out of their home country at this stage and they will play each team in their conference. (4 matches per team)

Super 15 phase two
After the first round of conference games the teams will then play four of the five teams in each of the other two conferences. Under this format it is possibly that a team such as the Bulls could miss out on playing the Crusaders one year as the teams will play four of the five teams in the other conferences. They could however meet in the play offs.

These eight games will be a mix of home and away games as they are with the Super14. (Another 8 Matches = 12 in total so far)

Super 15 phase three
The tournament will then return to a conference format again and another round of domestic challenges as in Phase One but with the venues reversed. This means that each team in a conference will have a home and an away match with their fellow conference teams by the end of the tournament. (Another 4 matches, bringing the total to 16 matches)

Once these three stages are complete teams will have played a total of 16 round-robin games.

A winner from each conference will be determined from the results in the previous three stages. Each conference will have one winner and therefore Australia, South Africa and New Zealand will each be gauranteed to have one team participating in the finals ..

Super 15 phase four
GRADE: Due to 2011 being a Rugby World Cup year the June Internationals appear have been suspended across the board.

The Super15's fourth phase is not really a stage of the tournament at all as the tournament takes a break in June when the All Blacks, Springboks and Wallabies will host tours from international teams - historically from the Northern Hemisphere - these are usually known as the June tours. Once the June tours are complete, the Super 15 resumes and the finals start.

Super 15 phase five / finals
The new format for the Super 15 finals is an expanded format and will feature six teams rather than the Super14’s four team format. The six teams will be made up of the conference winners and the three next teams with the highest total number of points. The top two ranked conference winners get a first round bye in the playoffs.

The expanded finals is expected to start in July and will therefore finish in early August.

Deciding who plays who

Deciding who plays who in the Super 15 Could be a case of the teams being given alphabetic names in order to determine which teams miss playing other teams due to the congested fixtures.

This means that it could be a case of “B for Brumbies” if an alphabetical system is approved to determine the draw for next year’s inaugural Super 15, enabling the ACT side to avoid playing the Bulls and the Blues in 2011 according tothe Australian.

With next year's competition being played under a conference system, with the five teams in each of the Australian, New Zealand and South African conferences playing each other on a home and away basis before combating their foreign opponents, the draw will be too crowded to allow all teams to play each other during the course of the regular season.

SANZAR have all but decided that each team will miss an opponent from the other two conferences.

Each year for the next five years the draw will rotate so that at the end of that period every side will have missed every other foreign side once.

Precisely how the rotation system will operate has not been determined but a telephone hook-up of SANZAR officials with broadcasters will discuss a range of options, the most likely being simply listing the teams in each conference alphabetically by their popular names - hence “Waratahs” not “NSW” - and pairing them off next year against their corresponding New Zealand and South African sides.

If that system is endorsed, the Brumbies would be the first team to benefit, dodging the Bulls and the Blues, the former a two-time Super rugby winner, in 2007 and 2009, the latter a triple champion, in 1996, 1997 and 2003 .

A few more notes

8 home games. 4 against own conference sides. 4 against other conference sides- (2 Australian and 2 New Zealand sides).

The 15 teams will compete in an expanded 24-week competition

The competition will stretch from the last weekend in February to the first week of August

A six-team finals series includes an extra round with two “sudden death” qualifiers before the semi-finals.

At least one team from each of the three countries will be included in the finals series.

All teams will get a three-week bye while the tournament is suspended during the window for June internationals.

The flow-on effect is that the Tri-Nations will be shifted to later in the calendar so it still runs at the conclusion of the Super 15 season.