SYDNEY • Super Rugby's organisers announced a change in the penalty rules yesterday and confirmed a new attacking bonus point system aimed at making matches - which will also be played in Singapore for the first time this year - more competitive.
The four-try bonus point has been scrapped in favour of a point for teams who score three tries more than their opponents, a policy used in France's Top 14 tournament.
Teams will also be allowed to kick for touch with a penalty and play the line out after the 80-minute mark, where previously the full-time whistle would have been blown once the ball went dead.
"These law amendments, while subtle in nature, will help Super Rugby's continuing evolution as the best provincial competition in the world," Sanzaar chief executive Andy Marinos said in a statement following a meeting in Australia.
"The change to the bonus point, which has been widely discussed throughout the past week as one potential innovation, has now been formally approved by the exco for the 2016 season.
"By implementing this change, we expect to see more attacking and competitive rugby as teams will be asked to keep their foot down for the full 80 (minutes) in order to claim the try-scoring bonus point, which we have seen used to great effect in France over the past few years."
Todd Blackadder, coach of seven-time champions Crusaders, had been critical of the bonus point changes, labelling them "bizarre" last month and also bemoaning the lack of consultation with the clubs.
Marinos, though, defended his organisation's procedures.
"We would never impose such fundamental changes to Super Rugby without proper consultation with stakeholders but will nevertheless continue to engage our member unions and franchises and work with all teams to continue striving for Super Rugby's ongoing improvement," he said.
Rugby's governing body in the Southern Hemisphere also changed its name to Sanzaar, incorporating an extra "a" to reflect Argentina's presence.
The 21st Super Rugby season kicks off on Feb 26 with the tournament expanded to 18 teams, with new franchises in Argentina and Japan and matches also being played in Singapore.