SANZAR (South Africa, New Zealand and Australia Rugby) is the body which operates Super Rugby and The Rugby Championship competitions in Rugby Union. It is a joint venture of the South African Rugby Union, the New Zealand Rugby Union and the Australian Rugby Union, formed in 1996.
Created shortly after rugby's move to professionalism in 1995, SANZAR's two products were the Super 12 (now Super Rugby) and the Tri Nations (now The Rugby Championship). This concept was developed by Queensland Rugby Union CEO Terry Doyle, NSW CEO David Moffett and Australian Rugby Union CEO Bruce Hayman. To fund the competition SANZAR looked to News Limited, eventually being offered $555 million over 10 years for worldwide television rights. Rian Oberholzer was the first CEO of SANZAR and the incumbent is Greg Peters.
SANZAR meets annually and is composed of the three CEOs from its member unions. In 2007 it has been criticised as powerless due to its inability to stop New Zealand removing its top 22 players from the Super 14 competition and inability to stop South Africa from removing players from the Tri-Nations.
Potential South African secession
In 2009 there emerged concerns that SARU might opt to breakaway from the alliance over a dispute about the proposed plan to expand Super Rugby to fifteen teams in 2011, voicing its support for the concept generally but disagreeing over its length and format. On 6 May 2009, however, ARU Chief Executive John O'Neill warned that the South Africans, would be the real losers, missing out altogether and potentially losing players, if they went ahead with the split. "The joint venture must remain intact," he urged. "I have dealt with the South Africans for years in business and sport. Part of their DNA is to take it to the brink. There's a moment when they will realise they have taken it far enough." On 20 May 2009, SANZAR announced it had reached agreement on a new deal involving all three nations. Details of the new deal are:
- Effective in 2011, Super Rugby will expand to 15 teams, and split into three conferences, each with five teams and based in one of the three nations. The four current Australian teams will be joined by a new team in the Australia conference; this license was later awarded to the Melbourne Rebels.
- At the same time, the regular season will expand to 16 matches (8 home, 8 away). Each team will play a double round-robin within its home conference, and play single matches against four teams from each of the other conferences.
- Super Rugby will take three weeks off in June for the mid-year Tests.
- The play-offs will expand to six teams, with the conference winners joined by the three non-winners with the most competition points without regard to conference affiliation. The two conference winners with the most competition points receive a first-round bye.
- The Rugby Championship will open each year in South Africa, and conclude with two of the three Bledisloe Cup matches between Australia and New Zealand that fall within the Rugby Championship. This will allow Springboks to be released early for their domestic competition, the Currie Cup.
- Argentine Rugby Union
- Australian Rugby Union
- New Zealand Rugby Union
- South African Rugby Union
- Super Rugby
- Tri Nations
- Deges, Frankie. "Argentina is now part of Rugby Championship". Buenos Aires Herald. Retrieved 23 November 2011.
- Linden, Julian (6 May 2009). "Rugby-Australia warns South Africa not to split SANZAR". Reuters. Retrieved 3 October 2011. "The joint venture must remain intact," O'Neill said. "I have dealt with the South Africans for years in business and sport. Part of their DNA is to take it to the brink. "There's a moment when they will realise they have taken it far enough."
- "Super rugby expansion plans revealed" (Press release). SANZAR. 20 May 2009. Retrieved 5 June 2009.