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In a brave move that recognised that the 18-team format did not work, was confusing and had diluted the standards of the competition, SANZAAR announced in April 2017 that the tournament in 2018 would be restructured. The 18-team, four Conference format was changed to a 15-team, three Conference format. Gone from the competition were the Force (Australia), Kings and Cheetahs (South Africa). The Jaguares remained in the now one South African Conference while the Sunwolves joined the Australia Conference.
Australian Conference: Brumbies, Rebels, Reds, Waratahs, Sunwolves
New Zealand Conference: Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders, Hurricanes
South African Conference: Bulls, Lions, Sharks, Stormers, Jaguares
Each team plays 16 regular season Conference matches that include eight matches within their own Conference (home and away) and four matches against teams from each of the other Conferences (home or away). This is 120 matches in the regular season with a seven-match, eight-team finals series.
Competition points will be awarded in all Regular Season matches on the following basis:
In the event two or more teams are equal on tournament points for any position in their respective conference at end of regular season, the following will apply to determine final conference positions:
The teams winning places in the Finals will be ranked 1-8 based on Conference Winners and the final number of competition points attained and the following order.
QF 1: 1 v 8
QF 2: 4 v 5
QF 3: 2 v 7
QF 4: 3 v 6
SF 1: Winner QF 1 v Winner QF 2
SF 2: Winner QF 3 v Winner QF 4
Winner SF1 v Winner SF2
If the teams are tied at full time in any Finals Series Match then the following will apply until a winner is found:
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