SANZAR again defends Super Rugby playoff anomalies

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) Super Rugby's organizing body SANZAAR has defended its new playoff format following complaints from New Zealand that the system is unfair.

Under the new format, each of the four conference winners is assured of hosting a quarterfinal. There are currently two South African conferences and one each in New Zealand and Australia.

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew this week said the system was ''frankly, just not fair'' because some of the conference winners would have inferior regular season records to the New Zealand teams forced to play away from home.

''At the end of the day it's not as complicated as it sounds but frankly it's just not fair,'' Tew said. ''That's the problem we've got.''

But SANZAAR Chief executive Andy Marinos issued a statement Friday dismissing New Zealand's complaints, saying the organizing body ''stands by the existing qualification process''.

''Unfortunately, there has been conjecture that the hosting criteria for the quarterfinals is unfair, largely based on the exceptional form of the New Zealand teams,'' Marinos said. ''However, SANZAAR stands by the existing qualification process. A tournament's qualification criteria cannot be determined on one year's results in isolation.''

With the final round of the regular season to be completed, four of the best performed teams this season are from New Zealand. At least four New Zealand teams will make the playoffs but only one will host a quarterfinal.

South Africa, whose Lions currently boast the best record of the 18 teams in the competition, will provide at least two, possibly three quarterfinalists, while Australia will have either one or two.