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The new Super Rugby format explained

The Roar logo The Roar 9/02/2016 Daniel Jeffrey

Ben Smith and Nasi Manu of the Highlanders hold aloft the Super Rugby trophy during the Super Rugby Final match between the Hurricanes and the Highlanders. © Rob Jefferies/Getty Images Ben Smith and Nasi Manu of the Highlanders hold aloft the Super Rugby trophy during the Super Rugby Final match between the Hurricanes and the Highlanders.

With new teams, new rules and a new draw, Super Rugby’s revamped format is somewhere between convoluted and deliberately confusing.

If you’re among the horde of rugby fans who are unsure of what’s happening this season, you need look no further, we’ve got you covered.

Super Rugby has adopted an American-style format, splitting the competition into two groups; the Australasian group and the South African group.

From there the teams are divided into conferences. The Australian and New Zealand ones, which make up the Australasian group, are the same five-team conferences which were a part of the last Super Rugby season.

The South African conferences are a little different; named Africa 1 and Africa 2, they consist of four teams apiece.

They also play host to the three new teams for this season. The Southern Kings are back in the competition after a two-year absence, and have been placed in Africa 2.

2016 will also see the debuts of the Sunwolves, playing out of Tokyo, and the Jaguares, from Buenos Aires. Despite being based in completely different continents, both have been placed in the South African group, a move that will see the new teams burdened with a significant amount of travel.

Super Rugby
Australasian groupSouth African group
Australian conferenceNew Zealand conferenceAfrica 1Africa 2

The draw is where things start to get confusing.

Every team will play six intra-conference matches, five games against one of the Australasian conferences, and four games against either Africa 1 or Africa 2. Each team also receives two byes for the year.

This means each team will play against sides from every conference bar one. The Australian sides miss out on playing against those from Africa 2, while Africa 1 has the luck of not playing against the New Zealand conference.

The finals series will be fought between eight teams. The four conference winners are given spots in the finals, alongside four wildcards. Those wildcards will be the next-best teams, determined by the number of competition points they earn throughout the season. Three wildcards come from the Australasian group, the other one from the South African group.

Each finals team is seeded, again ranked by their competition points. The conference winners make up the top four seeds, while the wildcards take the bottom four.

The finals will run for three weeks, using a sudden-death format. Winners progress to the next round, and there are no second chances for losers. The final will be held on August 6.

On top of the new draw and teams, there are also a couple of rule changes to be aware of.

In a move designed to ensure sides don’t shut up shop after scoring four tries, teams now need to score three more tries than their opponent to earn a bonus point.

There’s also been a change to the way penalties work. If a team earns a penalty after the halftime or fulltime siren, they can opt to kick for touch and still receive a lineout. Previously kicking for touch after the siren ended the half.

Both rules are designed to encourage more attacking rugby. You’ll be able to find out whether they work when the season kicks off on February 26.

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