Super Rugby organisers defended the tournament’s finals format on Thursday after complaints that in-form NewZealand sides were receiving a raw deal.
Based purely on results going into the final round, New Zealand teams occupy four of the five top spots on the ladder and three of them would expect to host quarter-finals.
But Super 18’s complicated system guarantees each of the four conference winners a home finals berth, meaning only one Kiwi team will play host in the last eight.
The other three will have to travel overseas and concede home advantage to sides which they have outperformed during the season.
SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos rejected any criticism, saying New Zealand teams were receiving “due reward” for their exceptional form by receiving four of the eight play-off berths, regardless of venue.
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“SANZAAR stands by the existing qualification process,” he said in a statement.
“A tournament’s qualification criteria cannot be determined on one year’s results in isolation.
“Even New Zealand Rugby boss Steve Tew, who signed off on the format for an expanded 18-team competition this year, has branded the system “unfair”.
Tew admitted the system was not ideal but said it was driven by the need to have finals in the sprawling competition’s main television markets — SouthAfrica, Australia and New Zealand.
“At the end of the day, it’s not as complicated as it sounds but frankly it’s just not fair, that’s the problem we’ve got,” he told Radio Sport onSunday.
“But there needed to be a final in every TV market or else the value we would have got for our content was seriously reduced.”
Super Rugby introduced teams from Argentina and Japan this year, making it an 18-team competition that straddles 16 time zones and four continents. But critics have complained of the lacklustre standard of games, lopsided contests, exhausting travel schedules and a fragmented conference system watched by smaller crowds.