This year’s Super Rugby competition is set to be the most exciting and open competition we’ve seen in years. We explain the new format.

Super Rugby has evolved greatly since its inception in 1996. In the inaugural year, there were 12 competing teams – 5 from New Zealand, 4 from South Africa and 3 from Australia. The 2016 season will see a total of 18 teams competing for the title from 5 countries.

With the addition of the three new teams, the competition has had to take on a new format this season. This is how the champions of the Super Rugby Season 2016 will be crowned:

As in previous years, each country’s teams will compete in their own conference. The Sunwolves from Japan and Jaguares from Argentina will be placed in the South African Conference, which will be split into Conference 1 and Conference 2.

Conference 1 will involve the Bulls, Cheetahs and Stormers alongside the Sunwolves, while the Jaguares find themselves in Conference 2 alongside the Southern Kings, Lions and Sharks.

The New Zealand and Australian conferences will contain the same teams as last year. The change here though is that there is the addition of the Australasian group. This will include all the teams from the Tasman rivals. In addition to this, there is also an African group. This group combines both of the African Conferences into one table.

The winners of each of the four conferences, just like previous years, will automatically qualify for the knockout phase of the competition. In previous years, the next four teams in the table would also qualify. This year, with the addition of the Australasian and African group, they have abandoned this practice. The top three teams outside the conference winners from the Australasian group will qualify alongside only 1 team from the African group meaning there will be 5 teams from the Australasian group in the quarter finals with only 3 making it out of the African group.

With the teams in the African group fairly evenly matched, it will be hard work to make the quarter finals, and it will be a battle that will be well worth a watch.

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