Any competition worth its salt must have credibility in its qualification process, or alternatively credibility in the manner the season is scheduled and therefore the final standings.
Now we have debated the issue of the conference format to death, hence I don’t want to discuss alternatives to Super Rugby formats as we have yet to all agree on a solution.
The fact is it will be very hard to satisfy the needs of three countries who by enlarge see the necessity of Super Rugby for different reasons.
But what is important regardless of the format is that there should never be a hint of tainted credibility when it comes to how points are secured for the qualification of the play offs.
Let me start by saying the six-team qualification process for playoffs is simply just weird to me.
Theoretically you can be top of your conference (and qualify for the playoffs), but yet you can be placed lower than six other teams?
In theory you can also make the top six, be in third place among the three conference winners, and yet be placed lower than a team that has to travel to the conference winner for a play off?
There is a certain logic when it comes to sport that your perform during the season to benefit from attaining log points which put you in a favourable position. Yet in Super Rugby the reality is you don’t get to enjoy or reap the benefit of consistent performances during a whole season.
These issues are merely the result of where the biggest issues lie.
At any time there is a pool round, logic dictates that all teams compete with one another to calculate the final points earned.
Now a single round robin is flawed in its own right as a team may find that in alternative years, they might have a significantly easier ride every alternative year.
Having said that, it is at least credible in its results that every team has competed be it home or away against every other opponent.
The problem comes in when these pool formats do not afford every team the opportunity to compete with every other team. Now you may say in theory it works out because once again as with the previous alternative year format, the situation hasn’t changed.
I beg to differ in this regard.
You may ask where I am going with this, well it is really very simple.
In the last 10 years of Super Rugby, no team has been able to win away from home, apart from the Bulls who beat the Sharks at Kings Park in 2007. But even then it was a local derby, the Bulls didn’t have to travel to the Antipodes to win.
Consider the Sharks who travelled the globe during their playoff extravaganza last year, beating the Reds and the Stormers across multiple continents.
Was anyone surprised when they got trounced by a Chiefs team who had an additional week’s rest and no travel?
The significance of having a home final cannot be underestimated. Topping the final table is essential to winning the tournament (unless of course the Sharks or any other team does a favour to the second placed team by knocking the log leaders out)
In the last decade the ladder leader won 80 percent of the titles, only once did they not make the final, and only once did a team win it away from home. But not one team won the title across the ocean.
So, in summary if it is virtually impossible to win across the oceans, all the more emphasis should be put on the credibility of qualifying for such a coveted trophy.