Australian rugby bosses have gone to ground over the prospect of one of the country's Super Rugby teams being cut from the competition.
A day after whispers of the Brumbies being in the firing line emerged, the chief executives of the the NSW Waratahs, Queensland Reds, Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels and Western Force announced they will make no further comment around the looming decision for the competition's future.
"Given that so many people's livelihoods could potentially be at stake, the CEOs are respecting the ongoing process that SANZAAR are going through and that speculation of a future format does not help any team," a statement issued on Thursday on behalf of Australia's five Super Rugby franchises read.
Three Australian franchises are considered endangered, left on tenterhooks since SANZAAR officials last week discussed a new model for 2018.
The CEOs' move contrasts to boss of the South Africa-based Cheetahs, Harold Verster, who told local media he understood one Australian team and one of his nation's six teams will go.
The competition will be reduced from 18 teams to 16 for next season, Verster said. 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.
AAP reported on Wednesday that the Melbourne Rebels are adamant they'll remain, while the prospect of the Brumbies being cut looms larger.
The Brumbies' chief executive Michael Thomson on Wednesday admitted the franchise would consider relocation to Melbourne to avoid extinction.
"You can't rule anything out or anything in, but Canberra is our home and I don't see that changing," Thomson told AAP.
The scenario raises the prospect of the privately-owned Rebels and cash-strapped Brumbies merging.
Most observers expected the Rebels or Western Force to face the chop but there is now speculation about the Brumbies moving from Canberra to Melbourne, where they could capitalise on a bigger population and more corporate dollars.
"We are here, we're focused on this season, we're focused on playing the Chiefs (on Saturday) and we don't consider ourselves at any risk of not being in the 2018 competition and beyond," Rebels chief executive Andrew Cox said on Wednesday.
"We're disappointed with the distraction this process has created and is creating and ultimately all we're focused on is playing the Chiefs."