As the Sanzar stalemate drags on and on, Western Force chief executive Mark Sinderberry is digging his heels in over the future of his struggling Super Rugby team.

Entering this weekend with just two wins and seven losses this season, the Force seem to be in a head-to-head battle with Melbourne Rebels to determine which Australian team is dropped from the current 18-team format next year.

South Africa must cut two teams, with the Kings and the Cheetahs most likely to fall.

But Sinderberry told Newstalk ZB's Tony Veitch that the debate over which team to axe was distracting Australian rugby from the real issues that were weakening the game across the Tasman.


And he hinted that the Australian Rugby Union needed to adopt a similar centralised model to that used with great success by their New Zealand counterparts.

"That's a good debate and it's a debate that needs to be had in an open and honest forum," said Sinderberry. "But it's not the debate at the moment.

"The debate for us at the moment is the right process to go through in determining whether it's five or four teams.

"There are a number of other issues that Australian rugby should be looking at. If you look back at some of the lessons New Zealand rugby has learned, over the past couple of years, you've seen teams like the Highlanders really kick on, and the Chiefs being really competitive teams through some structural changes in contracting, how coaches are appointed and funding."

Sinderberry insisted there were lessons Australia could learn from New Zealand Rugby that would make their Super Rugby franchises just as competitive moving forward.

"I think there are some other structural changes [we can make] to better distribute talent and coaching, and our overall approach to professional rugby can be improved," he told Veitch. "They're the sorts of things that will make a difference in the long term."

Both at-risk Australian franchises are threatening legal action that may stall any final decision for several months and Sinderberry seems quietly satisfied with the prospect of returning again next year.

"I'm not hearing anything and I have no ability to comment on that, so if that's the outcome, so be it," he responded to Veitch.

"There is some merit that we should just push on to 2020 with five teams in an 18-team competition, but I think it will be interesting to see what comes out of Sanzar in the next couple of weeks.

"There are some real time pressures ... there are time pressures around travel, just booking travel for where teams are going to. There is a range of issues, which are maybe a pointer towards keeping 18 teams."

Sinderberry believed West Australia Rugby and the Force had a strong case for survival, pointing to their success at retaining and growing their player base in a remote outpost.

Keeping local prospects in the game would certainly become more challenging without a presence in Super Rugby.

"We could go back to where West Australian Rugby was about 2005 and we can demonstrate all sorts of growth numbers, but it really means that any young, aspiring player needs to move to the east coast if they want to continue playing rugby.

"The Force was originally set up to grow that player base, this organisation has achieved that and will continue to do so."