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Page last updated at 19:54 GMT, Friday, 18 July 2008 20:54 UK

Tri-Nations acts to stop exodus

South Africa and the Bulls' Bryan Habana is one of the biggest names in the southern hemisphere game
Bryan Habana is one of the stars of southern hemisphere rugby

Southern hemisphere rugby is set for a shake-up to stop the exodus of leading players to the European club game.

The Super 14 club competition is set to expand its play-offs, while the Tri-Nations is looking to bring Argentina into the fold in the future.

"We want the most commercially attractive competition - our goal is to retain the best talent," said New Zealand Rugby Union chief Steve Tew.

"We can't hide from the economic engines of French and English rugby."

New Zealand, in particular, have lost some of their biggest names, with the likes of Luke McAllister, Carl Hayman, Aaron Mauger, Chris Jack, Byron Kelleher and Doug Howlett among those to join English, French and Irish clubs, while Dan Carter will take a sabbatical with Perpignan.

"The best way to address that is by having the best competitions. The players want to play in the best competition against the best players," added Tew.

South Africa and Australia have also been affected with the Springboks' Victor Matfield, John Smit and Percy Montgomery all plying their trade in France, while the Wallabies have seen Rocky Elsom sign for Leinster.

The financial muscle of the European game has long been a worry for the southern hemisphere, and the decision to switch to having six - rather than four - teams in Super 14's end-of-season play-offs is seen as just the first step.

"We recognise that our product needs a giant leap forward," said South Africa Rugby managing director Jonathan Stones.

I believe what has come out of here will be the defining moment in Sanzar history

South Africa Rugby managing director Jonathan Stones

"The expansion of the play-off series is the first concrete step in that evolution. It will happen in 2009 and thereafter we are aiming for much bigger leaps forward.

We want to invigorate that leg of the competition and keep the interest going for as long as possible."

Sanzar, an amalgamation of the South Africa, New Zealand and Australia unions, runs both the Super 14 and the international Tri-Nations.

Australia Rugby Union chief executive John O'Neill said Super 14 wanted to add new teams, possibly from the USA or Japan.

Stones admitted the planned changes would lead to "intensive changes" in the domestic and international schedules of the Sanzar nations.

"We want to accelerate our moves forward and that certainly will impact on the traditional Tri-Nations window and on other International Rugby Board stakeholders," he said.

"But we have to weigh up what we stand to lose against what we stand to gain.

"We had an assurance from the northern hemisphere that they would send their best available sides down south in June, but we've seen no evidence of that yet. At some stage our patience will run out.

"We've been having a workshop in Perth over the last three days and I believe what has come out of here will be the defining moment in Sanzar history. There is absolutely solid agreement on the way forward.

"Argentina are not out of the loop either. They said they wanted to play in an established competition and the only two are the Six Nations and the Tri-Nations.

"They were told bluntly at the IRB meeting that they are in the southern hemisphere, and there are a couple of things they have to deliver if they are to be part of the Tri-Nations."

see also
Pumas hold talks with Tri-Nations
03 Jul 08 |  Rugby Union
Carter set to take French leave
11 Jun 08 |  Rugby Union
Pickering rejects O'Neill claims
14 Jul 08 |  Rugby Union
O'Neill criticises World Cup cost
14 Jul 08 |  Rugby Union
Where have all the All Blacks gone?
04 Jun 08 |  Rugby Union
NZ exodus turns into a flood
04 May 07 |  Rugby Union
Rewriting rugby's laws
06 Dec 06 |  Rugby Union
Sharks 19-20 Bulls
19 May 07 |  Rugby Union

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