Super Rugby will expand next year in a new competition that includes club teams representing Fiji and other Pacific islands.
Super Rugby will enter a new era next year with the formation of a new competition that includes club teams representing Australia, New Zealand and a host of Pacific island nations, including Fiji.
Twelve sides will battle for the crown of Super Rugby Pacific champions.
Australia will be represented by the Queensland Reds, NSW Waratahs, Melbourne Rebels, Brumbies and Western Force.
New Zealand will also supply five teams – the Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes.
Rounding out the competition will be Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika.
Fijian Drua previously played in Australia’s National Rugby Championships, while Moana Pasifika is a South Auckland-based team made up of players who identify with Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and the Cook Islands.
“This is a game changer for rugby in the Pacific and indeed the rest of the rugby world,” Rugby Australia chief excutive Andy Marinos said.
“We have seen the brilliant rugby that Fiji play in all formats of the game and their inclusion will make this new competition one of the toughest in the world.
“We’re thrilled to confirm the competition model for next year and beyond and want to thank NZR (New Zealand Rugby) for their hard work and effort along with Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika for their patience and the effort that has been put into their proposals.”
The competition kicks off on February 18, with each team to play 14 regular season matches. Teams will play eight other sides once and three teams twice.
A top-eight playoff series will take place over three weeks, with quarter-finals, semi-finals and a final to determine the champions.
New Zealand Rugby general manager of professional rugby and high performance Chris Lendrum said: “We are entering an incredibly exciting new phase for rugby in the Pacific region.
“The trans-Tasman rivalries are crucial to our sport in the Southern Hemisphere, and the existing Super Rugby clubs have built a wonderful history and legacy over 26 years.
“Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua will add an enormous amount of energy, skill and talent to the competition, not to mention a passionate support base.
“The Pasifika nations have added so much to world rugby over the years, and this is an opportunity to enhance the standing of Pasifika rugby.
“Fans are going to see incredible skill and athleticism, and the regular season and finals series will undoubtedly unearth the best side in the tournament.”
The new competition will mean the end of the Super Rugby AU and the Super Rugby Aotearoa competitions.