Where does Super Rugby’s future lie?
If something like the suggestion in the Inner West Courier on Thursday comes to fruition, it could potentially solve the issue of a lack of a step between club and Super Rugby in Australia.
Even if the model isn’t ideal or along the lines of a national ARC-type tournament. Whether this is a good or bad thing remains to be seen.
But for many Australian rugby fans, it would put the focus back on wanting to develop and improve the Super Rugby structures.
Judging by throw-away lines by SANZAR officials over the past year or so, possible expansion teams could come from Argentina, Japan, and even the USA! This coupled with an almost certain extra team from South Africa has led me to make a small prediction.
(I’m not saying I agree with this, I just wanted to put my prediction out there to see how close I will get. Then I’d like Roarers to fill me in on what I’m missing in my alternative suggestion.)
When the next rights are finalised, I predict the South Africa conference will include six South Africa teams and one Argentinean team; the New Zealand conference will include six New Zealand teams and from the USA; the Australian conference will include five Aussie teams and two Japanese teams.
My reasoning goes something like this: South Africa will push for six teams; a team from the West Coast of USA could only really fit logistically in the New Zealand conference, which will mean a team from Argentina has to go into the South African conference (a good fit there anyway), meaning New Zealand would need another team to even up the numbers to 7.
They could go with one from Japan, but I think the call for a sixth New Zealand based team would be too strong. And Japan will want to get a couple of teams in time for their hosting of the World Cup in 2019. They will go into the Australian conference.
There you have it – seven teams per conference. Each team will still play all the teams in the own conference twice, plus two teams for the other two conferences, making it 16 games all up (same as now) before finals.
Now, even though this is my prediction, based mainly on vibe and speculation of course, my question is this: why would they do that?
Tell me what I’m missing in this suggested scenario instead.
Why don’t Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa all increase their number of teams to eight each, and create another conference of eight teams from elsewhere (maybe two from Canada, two from USA, two from Japan, two from Argentina).
Yes, there would be a lot of travel for the fourth conference but, surely, there would be a saving overall, particularly if the teams from the other three conferences were only ever travelling domestically before the finals.
Each team would play a double round robin with all the other teams in their own conference (14 games). There could even be a trophy for each conference winner – first past the post.
The top four teams from each conference would move into four pools of four teams for the inter-conference finals system.
In each pool there would be one team from each conference – with the first ranked team from a particular conference put together with the second, third, and fourth ranked teams from the other three conferences respectively.
Teams in each pool play each other once, with the top team from each pool moving through for semis and a final. Thus, the finals would go over five weekends.
The bottom four teams from each conference would likewise move into four pools of four teams, each with the same format to determine the plate winner, played on the same weekend as the main final.
Thus, every team from every conference would be guaranteed at least three inter-conference games and 17 games altogether (only one more than currently).
Teams which don’t make the top four are still in the hunt for some silverware.
It would also dramatically increase potential TV markets. Plus the internal conference games for South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia would all be very time-zone friendly. Same for most of the games of the fourth conference.
I dare say the inter-conference games at the end would also be mysteriously exciting, like when Super Rugby first began!
I haven’t suggested four difference domestic comps with their own finals, followed by a champions league, for two main reasons. I don’t think there are enough weeks to have a meaningful independent national domestic tournament, plus semis, finals, then break, then a champions league on top of that before the Rugby Championship begins.
Also, I also think the broadcasters will want to maintain the perception of a single Super Rugby tournament, albeit with four closed conferences.
What about Australia’s lack of depth? Well they could open up each team to a few extra foreigners, but it would also be mostly masked with closed conferences anyway.
I understand the New Zealand Rugby Union would be asking why they would want their franchises to play internally when they have their own national domestic tournament later in the year. But there have already been suggestions within New Zealand for a similar type of set up.
Besides, why couldn’t the New Zealand teams revert to traditional provincial teams (under fellow Roarer abnutta’s suggestion) to reverse the player loan system that’s been used in the ITM Cup for years, to prevent urban drift of players and the big Super Rugby provinces from cannibalising all the smaller provinces?
So tell me Roarers in laymen’s terms, what are the main roadblocks to this suggestion? What am I missing here?