12-team Super Rugby Pacific rubber-stamped for 2022

Southern hemisphere provincial rugby will take on yet another new look next year, with Super Rugby Pacific officially confirmed for 2022.

Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua will take their place alongside the five Australian and five New Zealand franchises, making a 12-team, 18-week competition that will run from February 18 to June 18 in 2022.

News that the competition was close to being finalised was reported last week, with the final details confirmed over the weekend and officially locked in on Monday.

New Zealand Rugby [NZR] and Rugby Australia [RA] had been locked in discussions for much of the year with each Union having its own preferences for the tournament structure.

Despite some recent volatility in the trans-Tasman relationship in regards to the staging of the Rugby Championship Test in Perth, the two governing bodies were able to agree on both the tournament structure and the share of revenue, which was central to getting both Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika across the line.

"The South Pacific has traditionally been the game's talent goldmine globally, but NZR and RA's commitment will help us provide professional pathways for our players right here at home," Fiji Rugby CEO John O'Connor said.

"We will repay the steadfast faith shown by our partners by bringing high octane flair and skills that are uniquely Fijian to Super Rugby Pacific.

"The Fijian Drua eagerly look forward to announcing the next milestones in our journey, which will include assembling a squad of players who will light up the competition and delight fans week in, week out."

The teams will play each other once, while three further games will be drawn from the ladder position of this year's Super Rugby Trans-Tasman and also have a focus on local derbies, meaning each franchise will play 14 regular season games.

Having the ability to stage seven home fixtures was a key part of the individual franchises' wishes, with the revenue generated at their respective stadiums vital to their longer-term survival.

At the end of the regular season eight teams will then contest a three-week final series, the quarterfinals set by the ladder position 1v8, 2v7, 3v6 and 4v5.

A draw for the 2022 tournament will be confirmed later this year while the competition has been locked in for only two years at this point.

"We're thrilled to confirm the competition model for next year and beyond and want to thank NZR for their hard work and effort along with the Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika for their patience, and the effort that has been put into their proposals.

"This is a game-changer for Rugby in the Pacific, and indeed, the rest of the rugby world. We have seen the brilliant rugby that Fijians play in all formats of the game and their inclusion will make this new competition one of the toughest in the world."

Moana Pasifika will primarily play its home games in New Zealand while Fijian Drua will confirm its base in the coming days, though it is expected they will play out of Australia, likely out of south east Queensland.

"Moana Pasifika acknowledges and thanks New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia for their commitment to building an exciting Super Rugby Pacific competition and the round-robin format definitely makes it even more attractive," Moana Pasifika chief and All Blacks great Michael Jones said.

"It is a historic time for rugby in the Pacific and we're thrilled to be a part of it."

The final Super Rugby Pacific product is a long way from the original eight-team tournament NZR had flagged late in 2020, when it planned to offer RA only "two or three teams" in its redesign of provincial rugby in the Pacific region.

But after two brutal Super Rugby Aotearoa tournaments, NZR came to understand the value both five Australian teams and the two expansion franchises could bring to a new era in its corner of the rugby world.

"We are entering an incredibly exciting new phase for rugby in the Pacific region," Chris Lendrum, NZR's general manager of professional rugby & high performance, said. "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."