Super Rugby needs an under-21 competition
There is a saying “when it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Broadcasters, SANZAR, sponsors and fans on the whole all seem to be satisfied with the format of the Super Rugby Conference system.
Reading blogs and websites, however, there seems to be a genuine concern regarding the development of rugby union in Australia.
All the talk surrounds the idea that rugby is fighting hard to compete with other football codes.
New Zealand have a situation where their highest populated city only features one team in Super Rugby. The young talented players are slowly but surely being enticed to move to rugby league.
South Africa had to reduce their Currie Cup premier division due to less time available on the calendar.
New Zealand changed the format of their ITM Cup to be played in a shorter period of time to include midweek games.
It seems as good as the structures SANZAR have put in place it also has it debilitating aspects, limitations and challenges for each country.
How can Australia increase their rugby union footprint in a country filled with football codes? How can they increase their player depth?
How can South Africa and New Zealand be accommodated to restore their provincial competitions former status while still having their cake and eating it?
Some have suggested that the Super Rugby should expand to allow each country an additional team, which would create an even bigger shortfall of players in Australia.
Others have suggested that the import limitations be relaxed in order to add value to developing franchises.
I have been pondering these issues for some time, and it just suddenly hit me.
As things stand at the moment it seems that all three countries are yet to put their last penny into the collective pot that is called SANZAR.
SANZAR need to find a system whereby all three nations can benefit from senior level all the way down to age group level if they want to continue to be the top three nations in world rugby, of which development and retention of players is key.
Finances are the biggest obstacle and some astute thinking will have to be done.
However the next step before expanding the Super Rugby competition too far is to introduce an age group Super Rugby competition.
We need an Under-21 Super Rugby tournament.
South Africa runs their Currie Cup on the basis that every province has an U19, U21 and Senior Currie Cup team.
Why not get each Country to start up three or four age Group franchises?
They can either just piggy back on current franchises or use this as an opportunity to develop new regions.
This will immediately make an impact on development, and with the cooperation of broadcasters, fund the development of the age group franchises.
Players will be drawn to professional rugby union at an earlier age and it could stem the tide towards other football codes.
The ITM Cup and Currie Cup can easily become part and parcel of Super Rugby.
South Africa has six teams in the premier division this year, as soon as the competition expand to six teams each, it will mean that all six teams will be competing against one another already in the conference.
A separate Currie Cup competition will simply just be a duplicate and unecessary.
Eventually you could argue each conference could have as many as eight teams. Being fed from an age group Super Rugby tournament, the issue of player depth is solved.
What do you think Roarers? Something to ponder, or just a pipedream?
Have you seen the new Wallabies jersey? Want one of your own? We're giving away a brand new 2013 Wallabies jersey to one lucky Roarer, click here to go in the running to win.