Leaner Super Rugby season gets first test

By AAP,

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    A leaner Super Rugby season with fewer, but likely more-competitive, fixtures starts on the weekend in what organisers, broadcasters and fans hope will be a slicker product.

    The competition has been cut from 18 to 15 teams with the culling of the Perth-based Western Force and South Africa’s Cheetahs and Southern Kings, both of whom have switched to Europe’s PRO14.

    South Africa’s Stormers and Argentina’s Jaguares begin the 2018 competition on Saturday at Newlands in Cape Town, with teams from Australia, New Zealand and Japan entering the fray in the second week.

    Governing body SANZAAR bowed to pressure from stakeholders at the end of the last season when dwindling viewing numbers and empty stadium seats made it clear the 18-team formula introduced in 2016 was turning off audiences.

    “We believe 2018 will deliver a more-competitive and compelling tournament with more-unpredictable outcomes, and with an expansive and entertaining brand of rugby that tests players and re-engages our many fans across the globe,” SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos said last month.

    “With the hard decisions to re-structure Super Rugby behind us, we can now look forward to a stronger tournament that promises to deliver the best versus the best.”

    The number of matches have been cut from 142 to 127, with teams split into three conferences and Japan’s Sunwolves moving into the Australian group, having previously been aligned with South African sides.

    Each team plays their conference opponents home and away and will take on eight of the remaining 10 sides in cross-pool matches.

    The top team in each conference qualifies for the quarter-finals, along with the five teams with the best records across the other groups.

    New Zealand outfits will be the ones to beat again as the Crusaders look to defend their title.

    The Crusaders and Hurricanes, winners in the previous two seasons, look the most-likely contenders again while, in South Africa, the Lions and Sharks have the most bite.

    Australian sides must find a way to win against their New Zealand counterparts if they are to be successful, having lost all 26 games between teams from the two countries in 2017.

    The Sunwolves have targeted a top-five finish under new coach Jamie Joseph, but in truth would do well to win five games, while the Jaguares look a settled, potentially potent unit, especially at home, under new coach Mario Ledesma.

    © AAP 2018

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    The Crowd Says (3)

    • February 15th 2018 @ 8:55pm
      Force4good said | February 15th 2018 @ 8:55pm | ! Report

      Fewer teams so even less reason to watch…

      It’s pretty clear just from reading the many Roar comments on multiple threads that Super Rugby in its current form has had its day.

      Bring on the winds of change… some support for Australian rugby would be a nice start.

    • Roar Pro

      February 16th 2018 @ 11:37pm
      GusTee said | February 16th 2018 @ 11:37pm | ! Report

      SANZAAR’s days are numbered. Time to look for a new vocation Mr Marinos.

    • Roar Rookie

      February 18th 2018 @ 10:47am
      ChrisG said | February 18th 2018 @ 10:47am | ! Report

      Good overview. I’m hoping that a fairer and closer competition will keep me interested to the end. Can’t wait

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