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New Zealand Rugby is now believed to be looking at just one expansion option for Super Rugby Aotearoa 2021, based in South Auckland.
Super Rugby Aotearoa 2021 will be a six team competition if New Zealand Rugby's board sign off this week on a proposal to include a Pasifika team.
Despite inviting expressions of interest and indicating a desire to run at least an eight-team competition next year, NZR is believed to be looking at just one expansion option for 2021.
A proposal has been tabled to run a Pasifika Moana team out of South Auckland which will be funded by a mix of broadcast and sponsorship income and governed by respective representatives from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.
A number of other initiatives are thought to have been proposed to help Pasifika Moana be competitive, which include the ability of currently contracted New Zealand players to be loaned to the new team.
New Zealand's five Super Rugby teams run with about 38 contracted players, some of whom barely play in any given season.
Allowing some of those players to be released, while recruiting others from the Islands and New Zealand provincial sides should enable a competitive squad to be built.
There are plenty of high quality coaches available, with former All Blacks coach Graham Henry having been sounded out about an advisory role and Auckland's Alama Ieremia one of a few current coaches with strong Pacific links thought to be interested.
While the team would only have a few months to prepare for a proposed late February-early March competition start, it would be enough time for them to make a meaningful impact.
Finding players might not be the biggest problem, however. Paying them will be but it is believed that Sky TV are striving to see how they can make it work.
If the broadcast rights holder believes the inclusion of Pasifika Moana will add value to the competition then it is believed it will table a financial package that will form the basis of the new team's income.
While there are concerns about a Pasifika Moana team in South Auckland cannibalising support and taking fans away from the Blues and Chiefs, they are thought to be unfounded.
Most analysis has concluded that Pasifika exists as a strong, independent brand with a worldwide following that will increase the overall fan base of Super Rugby and be attractive to sponsors and global broadcasters.
Far from diluting the value of Super Rugby, the research is believed to suggest the inclusion of a Pacific team will grow interest and expand audience reach.
Having publicly stated their desire to see a Pasifika team included, the pressure has mounted on NZR to green-light the proposal, with well-placed sources suggesting that if it doesn't agree at its board meeting this week to Pacific inclusion, it never will.
There is unanimous agreement that a six-team format next year will be more engaging and more practical than the five-team format of this year.
And inviting Pasifika Moana to take part in 2021 will pave the way for them to be included longer term when borders re-open and it becomes feasible to make longer-term plans.
At the moment, New Zealand can't grant licences beyond next year as they remain tied to Sanzaar obligations.
Next year is being treated, contractually, as a one-off due to the on-going impact of Covid-19 which has made it impossible to plan with any certainty whether teams will be able to travel beyond their own national border.
What is clouding the future of Super Rugby further is the uncertainty about South Africa's longer term intentions.
An announcement is expected this week on whether South Africa will take up an invitation to place more of its teams in the European Pro 14 league and for how long.
If they, as expected, decide to commit to that competition for the long haul, it will pave the way for New Zealand and Australia to potentially re-engage in formal negotiations about forming a cross-border Super Rugby competition in 2022, while also discussing the prospect of a champions' league style play-off next year.
Despite the strained relationship between the two caused by New Zealand's unilateral decision to take control of Super Rugby in this part of the world, there is growing optimism that both nations will come back to the table early next year and consider a format in 2022 that will see five New Zealand teams, five from Australia, Pasifika Moana and Fiji play in a revamped Super 12.