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Saturday 12th
posted by Morning Star in Sport

Governing body ruled that total teams would be cut from 18 to 15

Australian rugby faced renewed upheaval yesterday when chief executive Bill Pulver resigned only hours after the organisation decided to cut the Perth-based Western Force from Super Rugby for the 2018 season.

The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) hoped to end a period of turmoil when it announced the Force would be cut from Super Rugby next season as Australia reverts from five to four teams.

But the Force responded with a threat of legal action which promised to prolong an already bitter dispute. And Pulver made matters worse when he told a news conference he would step down as soon as a replacement could be found.

Pulver had threatened to quit if the ARU shied away from a hard decision to cut either the Force or the Melbourne Rebels, both of which backed their efforts to stay in Super Rugby with threats of litigation.

Yesterday he chose to step aside anyway, saying Australian rugby need’s new leadership.

“I have made the decision to step down as CEO once the board finds someone to replace the position,” Pulver said. “It’s been a tough year for rugby and it’s a good time for a renewed leadership, a clean state, a new generation of rugby. 

Super Ruby is the professional men’s rugby union football competition in the Southern Hemisphere and Japan.

Super Rugby’s governing body, Sanzaar, ruled earlier this year that the 2018 competition would be reduced from 18 to 15 teams by the removal of two teams from South Africa and one from Australia.

South Africa responded by cutting the Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs and Port Elizabeth-based Chiefs, both of which are joining a new Europe-based competition.

Australia promised to decide which of its teams would go within 72 hours of the April announcement, but the decision dragged on over months and became increasingly embittered, damaging the prestige of the sport. 

Rugby was already locked in a battle for audience share with Australia’s other football codes and lost further ground amid signs of administrative dysfunction.

Only one Australian team, the Canberra-based ACT Brumbies, reached the eight-team Super Rugby play-offs this season and then only because they topped the Australian conference. They achieved only six wins in 15 matches and would have finished ninth on a combined table.