What about a Super Rugby Super Round?
The Brumbies can congratulate themselves over what is turning into a successful season (AAP Image/Annaliese Frank)
Rugby’s biggest problem in Australia is that it struggles to appeal to a mass market and to cultivate a younger following.
It’s not exactly news to many, I know, but I have a few ideas to pitch to the leaders of SANZAR to make the last round of Super Rugby an ‘event’, not just a finale.
Yes, that final round concluded a while ago now, sorry about that. I’ve been juggling work, the final week of Masterchef and trying to avoid The Shire, but I’ve managed.
To create an ‘event’ out of the final round, we would need to play all games in the same international timeslot. This would heighten the already great excitement of the final round.
It means that no team knows exactly what they need to achieve as their minimum result.
Scheduling games this way has been proven successful in football tournaments like the World Cup and Euro Championship. I can remember the final round of this year’s English Premier League like sitting in a three hour chamber of tension!
The players on the field were made aware of the progress of other matches through their increasingly frantic coaches and trainers. It leads to teams frantically trying to change keep pace with the happenings of the round.
It was stunning to watch. Even through the TV, you could hear the groans or elation in the crowd as everyone caught up on matches in progress elsewhere (more on this later),
A perfect enhancement for this event is to offer a package of channels for a one off $5 on Fox Sports, Super Sport, Sky Sports and their affiliated websites.
The package should include the match of choice for each broadcaster on its normal channel like it does now, but the other games would be shown on the packaged channels as well as a “Super Spot” broadcast (name obviously up for review) that is centred around a studio that covered the matches when a team approaching the try-line, or to show replays of the most recent scores around the grounds.
The alternate channels and Super Spot should also be made available to stream online for subscribers.
Picture in picture would allow people to follow their main game and have the Hot Spot channel going in the corner. It is rugby on steroids, the ultimate advertisement for the game, in the most important week of the season.
There are always so many permutations heading into this week. My idea only leverages them for a commercial and emotional investment.
This is the set up for 21st Century viewing that could make the final Super Rugby round something anticipated by the masses. People would be able to entertain with this package and have everyone gathered around the screen, no matter who they supported.
If my time zone math is accurate, the schedule could look like this:
Saturday 14th July;
Stormers v Rebels – 12.30pm
Sharks v Cheetahs – 12.30pm
Bulls v Lions – 12.30pm
Reds v Waratahs – 6.30pm
Brumbies v Blues – 6.30pm
Hurricanes v Chiefs – 8.30pm
Crusaders v Force – 8.30pm
In Brisbane you could watch seven rugby balls airborne at the same time, all around the world, and all of them would have ramifications on where your team sat on the ladder in a couple of hours time.
That is compelling.
Now to the second illustration of how exciting this could be. This is the list of the tries scored during that weekend, in chronological order. I would anticipate that a once only 15minute halftime for this round would help give commentators and fans enough time for all the permutations to be digested as the first half action comes to a close.
Israel Dagg 1m – CRU
Scott Higginbotham 3m – RED
Tawera Kerr-Barlow 3m – CHI
Liaki Moli 11m – BLU
Julian Savea 12m – HUR
Juan De Jongh 14m – STR
Sean Maitland 15m – CRU
Daniel Braid 16m – BLU
Akona Ndungane 16m – BUL
Henry Speight 23m – BRU
Liam Gill 24m – RED
Julian Savea 24m – HUR
Drew Mitchell 28m – TAH
Bjorn Basson 31m – BUL
Andrew Ellis 34m – CRU
Michael Bondesio 36m – LIO
Hadleigh Parkes 36m – BLU
Matt Todd 37m – CRU
Ben Tameifuna 38m – CHI
Josh Strauss 41m – LIO
James Slipper 44m – RED
Francois Hougaard 44m – BUL
Francois Hougaard 44m – BUL
Keegan Daniel 44m – SHA
Jacques Potgieter 48m – BUL
Dom Shipperley 50m – RED
Rodney Blake 51m – REB
Kyle Godwin 53m – FOR
Nick Phipps 54m – REB
Juan De Jongh 57m – STR
Charl Mcleod 58m – SHA
Will Genia 58m – RED
Aaron Cruden 58m – CHI
Alfie Mafi 60m – FOR
Marcell Coetzee 61m – SHA
Cooper Vuna 70m – REB
Tom Carter 72m – TAH
Ryan Kankowski 74m – SHA
Josh Holmes 78m – FOR
Dane Coles 85m – HUR
You can’t tell me that wouldn’t be exciting. For younger people and people newer to the game, this could be an energy charged hook that would make them fans for life. Some fanatics might get so involved that they find themselves experiencing mild paralysis as beautiful rugby highlights stream into their consciousness.
The director of the Super Spot broadcast would have an important role to play. Some games became blow outs by half time and not every try from those games would need to be replayed immediately after it happens. By the same token, towards the end of the matches, a penalty kick for goal should be covered live.
Some people might find it all a little too much. That’s fine too. They can just watch the one game and follow along with the other scores on the ticker and other devices.
This brings me to another very important feature for rugby to thrive and compel in the 21st Century.
The smart phone apps need to be able to stream data to phones so people not watching live and those in the crowd can follow along in real time. That would make the experience much more enjoyable.
Why Super Rugby doesn’t have a specialised app doesn’t make sense to my Gen-X (Y) mind. I have nothing against Fox Sports Match Centre (this is fairly good) or ESPN Australia’s rugby app (not as good) but you can’t call yourself a professional competition without your official app ready to go on Apple and Android at the minimum.
Even the Rugby World Cup had a functional, minute by minute app that gave links to very relevant news articles under match-day columns and in the pool screens.
SANZAR have to get that fixed, ASAP.
So, I’ve laid my plan out there. Feel free to poke holes in it – there will be some – but I think it could be an exciting addition and increase appeal on the rugby scene.
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