Updated: Thursday, 01 May 2014 14:37 | By Agence France-Presse

Super Rugby to expand to 18 teams in 2016

The Super Rugby competition will expand to 18 teams in 2016, with three new clubs coming from South Africa, Argentina and possibly Asia or the United States, the New Zealand Rugby Union said Thursday.

Super Rugby to expand to 18 teams in 2016

Chiefs run out onto the field prior to their Super 15 rugby match between the Chiefs and the Brumbies at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton, New Zealand on August 03, 2013 - by Michael Bradley

NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said a revamp was needed in the southern hemisphere competition, which currently includes five teams from each of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

He said expansion, which has been approved by governing body SANZAR, would meet South African demands for a sixth team and help establish elite professional rugby in Argentina.

The addition of an 18th team would also take the game to new markets, he said.

"There's interest on the west coast of America, there's interest in Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan," Tew told reporters, adding that discussions were already underway with "credible" potential bidders for the groundbreaking franchise.

Under the new blueprint, the competition will be split into two regional groupings, South Africa and Australasia, each containing two conferences.

The South Africa grouping will have eight teams -- including Argentina and the 18th team -- with two conferences of four teams.

Australasia will 10 teams, with the five Australian and five New Zealand sides each forming a conference.

Teams will play the majority of their regular season games against sides from their own regional grouping, which Tew said would minimise the large amounts of travel needed under the current format.

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