Super Rugby Aotearoa is set to return in 2021, with a minimum of three teams to be added to the tournament in 2022.
According to a report by Liam Napier at the New Zealand Herald, the five New Zealand Super Rugby franchises (Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes) will play home and away matches against each other again next year, with the addition of a final between the top two teams on the log.
The report states that despite New Zealand’s ongoing stand-off with Rugby Australia over the future of Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship schedule, crossover matches with the five Australian franchises have been proposed to take place at the completion of Super Rugby Aotearoa.
From 2022, New Zealand Rugby is committed to expanding Super Rugby Aotearoa beyond the five existing Kiwi franchises by a “minimum” of three teams.
At least one of the three teams to be added to Super Rugby Aotearoa in 2022 will be a Pacific Islands side, while the Force could also join the competition from Australia. According to the report, the NZ Rugby board opted not to include a Pasifika side next year due to concerns around its competitiveness in a compressed timeframe, and apparent insufficient corporate support to prove a self-sustainable future which left the national body at risk.
The final potential inclusion is the South China Lions with the team potentially being based out of the Bay of Plenty but also play games in Hong Kong and Shanghai.