The Super Rugby format for 2022 has been confirmed with Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua making up an exciting 12-team line-up.
The decision was made following a detailed financial, performance and commercial feasibility study in partnership with New Zealand Rugby and the respective unions of Samoa, Tonga and Fiji.
Having two teams in Super Rugby will enhance the player development pathway in the Pacific Islands, improving the opportunity for the three countries to perform to their full potential on the world stage.
It supports the ambition to develop locally-based players through to test match level and builds on the progress already achieved through the Pacific Challenge and Pacific Combine.
Since its inception in 2018, 75 players have graduated from the Pacific Combine and 17 have gone on to represent the Pacific Islands on the world stage, including seven at Rugby World Cup 2019 and 12 in Fiji’s squad for the Autumn Nations Cup in 2020.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont has hailed the announcement as “a game-changer” for rugby in the region.
“We are delighted to see this ambitious dream to boost Pacific Island rugby become a reality,” he said.
“It is nothing short of a game-changer and should not be under-estimated. From a strategic perspective, it provides the best-possible platform and pathway for the Islands to reach their potential. We are proud to be playing our part in financial and technical assistance.
“On a human level, this is absolutely the right thing to do. It is great for the players, allowing them to make the choice for the first time to be part of a local professional team at the top level of elite club rugby. It is also great for fans of Pacific Islands rugby.
“I would like to thank Rugby Australia, New Zealand Rugby and the Pacific Island unions for their passion and dedication to making this happen. It is great for rugby.”
Financial support package
The announcement completes a journey that began when World Rugby’s Rugby Committee met in Suva in 2016 to consider opportunities to further support Pacific Islands rugby on and off the field.
The franchises will share the £1.2m annual funding package from World Rugby over an initial three-year period, which was approved back in March, in addition to support from their respective unions and potential third-party funding.
The Fijian Drua made a spectacular impact when they were introduced to Australia’s National Rugby Championship (NRC) in 2017. Fully financially supported by World Rugby, they won the title in their second season, with players like Albert Tuisue using the NRC as a springboard to become an established test player.
Super Rugby Pacific 2022 will afford locally-based players similar opportunities when it begins next February with a 15-week regular season followed by quarter-finals, semi-finals and a final, to be played on 18 June.
The 12 teams will play 14 regular season matches, split evenly between home and away. The venue for the Fijian Drua’s home matches has yet to be announced, while Moana Pasifika will play home matches primarily in New Zealand.
Teams will play eight teams once and three teams twice with an emphasis on derby fixtures.
Meanwhile, the old Conference system has been abandoned in favour of a one table approach with the top eight teams at the end of the regular season qualifying for the quarter-finals and seeded according to their finishing positions.