Former Australian rugby chief John O'Neill has called for Argentina and Japan to be dumped from the troubled Super Rugby competition, along with a South African side.

As the SANZAAR organisers grapple with a way forward for the confusing 18-team, five-nation championship, former Australian Rugby Union chairman O'Neill says they must return to a 15-team format, the Daily Mail reported.

O'Neill said he fears the far-flung competition, beset with problems over its unwieldy conference structure and exhausting travel schedules, is losing its tribalism.

He has accused the organisers of trying to please everyone, including World Rugby.

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"It will take some very bold decision-making," O'Neill told the Daily Telegraph on Friday, imploring Australian administrators to stand strong against calls to axe one of their own five teams.

"Am I suggesting it's an easy solution? No, it's not. But you cannot continue with an 18-team competition, which isn't even a genuine competition."

O'Neill was referring to the competition's convoluted four-conference structure and fixture schedule that means the Golden Lions and the Southern Kings of South Africa will not play against any team from New Zealand during this regular season

O'Neill said it was time for a serious rethink.

"What is the best competition structure that is ultimately and unambiguously in the best interests of Australian rugby?" he asked.

"Personally, I would not have agreed with South Africa going to six teams. That's a domestic issue that they should have been told to sort out."

And he was vehemently against the suggestion that Australia should lose a franchise.

John O'Neill was chief executive of the ARU between 1995 and 2003. Photo / File
John O'Neill was chief executive of the ARU between 1995 and 2003. Photo / File

"I can't possibly agree with that. It is not the fault of the five Australian franchises that this Super 18 competition is a disaster.

"You can ask questions how the hell this 18-team competition came into existence but the hard cold question now is 'what's the solution?'."

He said the current format across five countries and 17 times zones with matches being played from Thursday to Sunday was flawed.

"Latitudinal competitions - east/west competitions - do not work," he said, suggesting Australia should even look at a better trans-Tasman option while including Pacific and Asian teams.

The new season kicked off on Thursday with the Blues thrashing the Rebels 56-18 in Melbourne.