Super Rugby 2018: The New/Old Format Explained

After three teams were dropped at the end of last season, Super Rugby 2018 will see a return to the 15-team format. Here, we’ll jog your memory and explain how the new format will work and what it means for scheduling and playoffs.

Leaving the competition are South African pair Cheetahs and Kings, as well as Australian side, the Force. This reduction in teams will see a return to the three-conference format and will see Japan’s Sunwolves moving to the Australia conference from Africa.

A Fairer Competition

In the previous four-conference format, teams only played 13 of the 18 total teams – which could result in a great disparity in terms of equality, and could significantly improve or hinder a team’s playoff chances, depending on their fixture list. For example, last year, Lions and the other teams in the old ‘Africa 2’ conference managed to avoid facing highly-fancied New Zealand teams throughout the entire regular season, a significant disadvantage for sides in the Australia conference.

And while not perfect, the returning 15-team format will see every team face 12 of the 14 other teams available, missing just one team from other two conferences, while playing each team in the conference twice. This means teams will face 85% of the other sides in the league, significantly higher than the 70% of 2017. Unsurprisingly though, last year’s champions, Crusaders, are again 18/5 favourites in the rugby union betting to win the 2018 Super Rugby Grand Final and become champions for a ninth time.

Source: BNZ Crusaders via Facebook

Playoffs: Simplified

One of the biggest perks of the return to the 15-team, three-conference format is the simplification of the playoff system. The winners of all three conferences will automatically qualify from the playoffs, as well as five wildcard sports being awarded to the next best sides ranked on points. This should put a stop to weird situations, such as Brumbies managing to qualify for the playoffs with a home quarterfinal tie after picking up just 34 points, while the Blues missed out altogether after coming bottom of the New Zealand conference, despite picking up more points (37) than the Australia Conference winners.


Source: Brumbies Rugby via Facebook

Derbies: The More the Merrier?

One of the biggest debates with the return to the three-conference set up is the increased number of derby matches, as each conference expands from four to five teams – thus increasing the number of derbies for each team during the regular season from six to eight. The big question here is if this is a good thing or whether the higher frequency dilutes the intensity of the rivalries.

However, the return to this setup has thrown up an interesting stat for fact fans, as the Waratahs will become the first side in Super Rugby history to play in all five competing countries in a single season. Of course, this will be particularly challenging for the Waratahs, due to their increased travel demands. The New South Wales side will first travel to Sydney (Australia), before visiting Durban (South Africa), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Tokyo (Japan), and finally Christchurch (New Zealand).