The future of the Kings, the South African Super Rugby franchise based in Port Elizabeth, appears bleak. They, along with either the Perth-based Force or Melbourne-based Rebels appear set for the chop in the looming competition restructure.

If Harold Verster, the boss of the Cheetahs, is to be believed, Super Rugby will be pared back to 16 teams from next year. Sanzaar, who met in London last week to discuss the way forward, have yet to release their decision.

It will be announced, according to Sanzaar chief executive Andy Marinos "in the coming days", but Verster has wasted no time in giving his version of events, which includes his assertion that his Cheetahs franchise is safe.

"All I can say is that we are safe. I keep my ear to the ground," Verster told South Africa's Netwerk 24.


"There is much discussion about the current series and the format and two teams of South Africa will fall out and a team of Australia.

"There was even speculation that we would return to a Super 12, but my information is that we are going to be reduced from the current 18 to 16 teams, which means the Cheetahs are safe," Verster said.

That would suggest the Kings, who made their Super Rugby debut in 2013, but who weren't included for the next two years, are most vulnerable. They have won only six matches in two full seasons, plus the three rounds of this one.

Australia's Force and Rebels are also vulnerable, but so too are the Canberra-based Brumbies, despite the fact that they are foundation members and have won two titles - in 2001 and 2004 - and finished runners-up three times.

The Brumbies have been a financial basket-case over the past couple of seasons - they announced a loss of $864,093 at their annual general meeting last month and the franchise is fighting to break even this year for the first time since 2003.

They lost $1.07 million in 2014 and $1.68 million in 2015 but have $1.5 million in their cash reserves, and, worryingly for the rest of the Australian conference, Brumbies chairman Robert Kennedy believes they were in a better financial state than their rivals.

"We've been keeping the ARU up to date and we regularly report to them on our financial situation. They are absolutely confident now that we are in one of the better financial shapes of the Super Rugby teams [in Australia]," Kennedy told Australian media last month.

"The ARU did have some concerns, all of rugby in the southern hemisphere is being challenged. But I can say they have confidence in our ability and believe we're one of the better financial shapes."

Verster's assertion that the competition will be cut to 16 teams, with new teams such as Argentina's Jaguares and Japan's Sunwolves apparently safe, does beg further questions.

A 16-team competition would appear to divide equally into four conferences but given that New Zealand's five strong franchises aren't in any danger of being cut, that's a difficult number too.

A 15-team competition would appear to be more workable, with the Jaguares and the Sunwolves joining either a South African or Australian conference. It remains to be seen what structure Sanzaar finally come up with.