Super Rugby players from the Western Force, Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels are on tenterhooks as speculation heightens that an Australian team is to be axed.
Chief executives from all five Australian franchises were briefed on recent developments by senior Australian Rugby Union (ARU) officials on Tuesday, just hours after a report emerged claiming an Australian team is to be cut.
The Force, Rebels and Brumbies are considered the local sides under most threat.
Harold Verster, CEO of South African team the Cheetahs, told media he understood one Australian team and one of South Africa's six teams will go, with the competition to be reduced from 18 teams to 16 for next season.
It follows the meeting of governing body SANZAAR in London last week which discussed detailed proposals to fix the unwieldy and unbalanced competition, driven by financial pressure and disillusioned fans.
"There was even speculation that we would return to a Super 12, but my information is that it is going to be reduced from the current 18 to 16 teams, which means the Cheetahs are safe," Verster said on online news site Netwerk24.
"All I can say is that we are safe. I keep my ear to the ground."
The ARU wouldn't comment on Verster's assertion, deferring to SANZAAR to make an official announcement after stakeholders across several nations were briefed by their national unions.
Wallabies star Michael Hooper was adamant on Tuesday that Australia could support five competitive teams.
"From being part of the Brumbies it has a really rich history and people are very passionate about our Capital Territory having a team," said NSW Waratahs captain and former Brumbies flanker Hooper.
"I'm not sure what's going to happen, but the Brumbies is a strong club and one that you'd like to see continue in the comp.
"I think Australia can have five teams in the competition.
"The Force have come out this year and done some really good things within the competition and they have been the name that's been thrown around a lot (to be cut). "We want to see five (Australian) teams in the comp. As players we want guys having as much opportunity to wear a Wallaby jersey as possible so I'm all in favour of having five teams and a competitive five teams at that."
Hooper said it was a tough situation for players of any of the Australian franchises in danger of being culled.
"All you can look forward to and focus on is actually what you can control and that's playing games on the weekend."
He acknowledged the convoluted format of the Super Rugby competition made it hard for some people to follow but felt the actual product was good.
"It's such an enjoyable game of rugby to play and I'm sure it's a really enjoyable game to watch for spectators, that there's a great product there, it's just finding the right balance."