New Zealand Rugby has responded to South Africa's plans to ditch Super Rugby, saying it wasn't surprised at the decision.
The South African Rugby Union confirmed it has voted to explore moving the Bulls, Stormers, Sharks, and Lions into an expanded PRO16 competition in Europe.
If approved, they would take the place of the Cheetahs and Southern Kings who have been playing in the current PRO14 competition for three seasons with little success.
SARU chief executive Jurie Roux said they wouldn't have been taking this decision but for New Zealand Rugby's push for a domestic, transtasman or Pacific competition in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Roux said New Zealand's decision made it impossible to deliver the 14-team Super Rugby competition that had been agreed by the partners and for which five-year broadcasting agreements had been signed.
NZR chief executive Mark Robinson said South Africa's position was "no surprise".
"SARU has signalled for some time now they were looking at aligning with the Northern Hemisphere season," Robinson said in a statement. "All of the SANZAAR partners had agreed to look at more domestically related competitions in 2020 and 2021. During times like these change is inevitable and we need to be willing to adapt quickly.
"We were thrilled with how Super Rugby Aotearoa was received this year and are excited about what is shaping up for 2021."
NZR and SARU will still be working together closely through Sanzaar, with Roux saying South Africa are committed to the Sanzaar partnership and participation in the Rugby Championship.
Robinson welcomed South Africa's commitment to Sanzaar and looked forward to working with them in the future.
"We're also pleased to hear confirmation of South Africa's ongoing commitment to remain a key partner in SANZAAR, which strongly aligns with NZR's position.
"We look forward to seeing the Springboks in action during the upcoming Rugby Championship in Australia."
Meanwhile, NZR is working on its own plans for its Super Rugby Aotearoa competition, with plans for a six-team competition in 2021.
The Herald reported yesterday that Super Rugby Aotearoa 2021 will be a six-team competition if New Zealand Rugby's board sign off this week on a proposal to include a Pasifika team.
Next year is being treated, contractually, as a one-off due to the on-going impact of Covid-19 which has made it impossible to plan with any certainty whether teams will be able to travel beyond their own national border.
Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan told Sky Sport's The Breakdown last night that he is backing a transtasman competition for 2021.
"I would like a transtasman competition. I think Covid is throwing up a whole lot of issues and I'm not sure where that's going to land by ultimately we've got a really powerful Anzac block that we should be leveraging and working together," McLennan said.
"I think we're better players when we play against you guys. And it will only get better over time. We've got a good crop of young guys coming through and I think the competition will improve. And we've got to work together to leverage our strength together on the global stage."