Super Rugby: July 7 D-day for South African sides

Johannesburg (AFP) - South Africa will announce on July 7 which two of their six Super Rugby franchises will be dumped from the 2018 competition.

Central Cheetahs from Bloemfontein and Southern Kings from Port Elizabeth are the media favourites for the chop. That would leave Coastal Sharks from Durban, Golden Lions from Johannesburg, Northern Bulls from Pretoria and Western Stormers from Cape Town as the South African contenders next season.

The decision will be made after South African Rugby (SAR) have evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of the six franchises.

Lions, Sharks and Stormers have been the best performing South African teams this season, but the Kings have won more matches than three-time former champions Bulls or Cheetahs.

An Australian franchise, either Melbourne Rebels or Perth-based Western Force, will also be culled as the annual competition reduces from 18 teams to 15.

Expanding competition costs, exhaustive travel, an odd format and dwindling match attendances and TV audiences are among the reasons for cutting back.

There will be five New Zealand teams in 2018, four from Australia and South Africa plus the Argentine Jaguares and the Japanese Sunwolves.