Is the Australian conference really the weakest?

drdavebond Roar Pro

By drdavebond, drdavebond is a Roar Pro

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    Remarks made by Jon Plumtree, the coach of the Sharks, back in August that the Australian conference is the weakest in the Super Rugby competition certainly seem to be correct.

    Only the Reds had made it through to the finals and the Waratahs, Force and Rebels were busy propping up the table. Add to that recent losses by the Wallabies in the Bledisloe Cup, and scrappy wins against the Springboks and Pumas, it certainly does seem like Australian Rugby is struggling.

    But, like many things in life, just because it looks so, doesn’t mean it necessarily is. So to explore whether there is any credibility to this idea I turned to an idea in sports economics called competitive balance.

    There are a number of ways in which competitive balance can be measured, but in essence this usually happens either within the season (i.e. the Chiefs and Stormers at the top and the Force and Lions on the bottom) or across seasons (i.e. the Crusaders and Bulls always tend to do well).

    For balance in the former, you’d like to see not much difference in points between first and last on the ladder and for the later you’d like to see different teams at the top and bottom of the ladder each year, much like the reversals in fortunes of the Waratahs and Reds in recent times.

    A big problem with applying these measures to Super Rugby is that they need stable competitions, with generally the same number of teams and everyone playing each other the same number of times.

    Obviously this is not the case in Super Rugby, so alternatives must be found. One way to get around this is to strip out the national derby matches, and only look at matches against a foreign opposition.

    For example, during the 20 matches Australian teams played against New Zealand opposition in the 2012 regular season, the Australian teams had a win-loss ratio of 35%. This dropped to 25% for the matches against the South Africans.

    This isn’t to say that the South African and New Zealand conferences are equal. Even though the Australians were being beaten up by everyone, the South African teams were also being beaten up by the Kiwis, with a win-loss ratio of only 35% (exactly the same as the Australians).

    However, if you extend this analysis back to 2006 and the start of the Super 14 competition, a slightly more nuanced story emerges.

    The Kiwis are definitely the pick of the litter, winning 59% of their matches against any foreign opposition. The Australians and South Africans are a long way back, but actually very even, with Australian teams winning 45% of their matches and South African teams winning 46% of their matches against foreign opposition.

    So yes, the Australian conference is weaker, at least at the moment. Historically though, the Australians aren’t that different to the South African teams.

    The Kiwis though, with the exception of 2010, are very much in a different league when it comes to continued Super Rugby dominance.

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    The Crowd Says (60)

    • September 20th 2012 @ 8:22am
      Chris said | September 20th 2012 @ 8:22am | ! Report

      Obviously we weren’t as weak in 2006 as now relative to the South Africans. They had 5 teams and we had 4.

      Comparisons starting in 2011 are the only worthwhile measure as that is when every country had the same number of teams.

    • Roar Guru

      September 20th 2012 @ 10:24am
      sixo_clock said | September 20th 2012 @ 10:24am | ! Report

      As Nomis said above: we are building up our talent depth and that is a great help. I have no doubt that with Rebels only two years old, the Force still in a cultural dilemna combined with the consistently imploding ‘Tahs we do own the ‘weakest link’ mantle at the moment. At test level every year the squad seems to need one or two games to relearn the basics as there is a massive gap in the quality of early development of the Rugby brain, which will never happen in NZ.

      As the stats above pointed out, we are now also the worst travellers, which used to be the Saffas private property.

      We need to go up from here, but, unless the football mandarins do not hear the implicit message that, Rugby is a community and our up and coming players need encouragement and inspiration, constantly and consistently as do their coaches we will fail to exploit fully the marvellous advantages which Australian athletes present. It is possible to challenge the Kiwis for a share of first spot but our biggest hurdle is one of mental development.

    • September 20th 2012 @ 12:51pm
      Chris said | September 20th 2012 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

      Each country has five teams:

      In all time terms,
      New Zealand has three winning teams (Crusaders, Blues and Hurricanes) and two losing ones (Cheifs, Highlanders).
      South Africa has two winning teams (Sharks and Stomers) and three losing ones (Bulls, Lions and Cheetahs).
      Australia has two winning teams (Brumbies and Waratahs) and three losiing ones (Reds, Force and Rebels).

      What is scary is that since the conference system was introduced there is absolutely no doubt we are the weakest,
      New Zealand has three winning teams (Crusaders, Highlanders and Cheifs) and two losing ones (Hurricanes and Blues).
      South Africa has three winning teams (Sharks, Bulls and Stormers) and two losing ones (Cheetahs and Lions).
      Australia has one winning team (Reds) and four losing ones (Brumbies, Waratahs, Force and Rebels).

      Clearly Australia has the weakest conference.

      • September 20th 2012 @ 1:34pm
        Jerry said | September 20th 2012 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

        The Hurricanes are actually a 50/50 side in the S15. Played 32, W15, L15, D2.

        • September 20th 2012 @ 9:46pm
          The Grafter said | September 20th 2012 @ 9:46pm | ! Report

          As a Wellington bloke, we are THE major underachievers in Super rugby.

          In fact our only final (06) those supporters who couldnt make it to Christchuch still couldnt see the game (infamous fog final)

          • September 21st 2012 @ 5:50am
            Jerry said | September 21st 2012 @ 5:50am | ! Report

            I still think it’s the Waratahs – with all their resources, their record is appalling.

    • September 20th 2012 @ 3:05pm
      richard said | September 20th 2012 @ 3:05pm | ! Report

      Jerry @ 1.28pm, thanks for correcting me, I knew I was on the right track.

    • September 20th 2012 @ 3:13pm
      steve.h said | September 20th 2012 @ 3:13pm | ! Report

      Well South African teams have been pretty awful for most of Super Rugby’s existence and only collectively got up to speed with world rugby from about 2006, shaking off the set back of a rightful period of isolation. I think you will find once the issue of provincialism and developmental structures, that help phase players from schoolboy rugby to professionalism, are set in place the national team will improve.

      So what if the Australian teams have been poor, they are a developing entity and this is something positive. Its only New Zealand that has no potential for growth, economically and demographically, in the alliance and will find in the coming years that they will have less bargaining pull than the other two nations.

      • September 20th 2012 @ 3:43pm
        Johnno said | September 20th 2012 @ 3:43pm | ! Report

        I agree steve h, NZ has almost reached saturation point. I don’t think NZ population will increase massively over the next 20 years, i think they could have 1 more super team in taranaki or sty auckland but that’s it. If anything NZ rugby over the next 10 years will slowly be poached off by rugby league and soccer. So NZ will have to talant share more without he other footy codes. And also basketball to is on the rise in NZ. So it is a myth that NZ has forever endless pots of talent, well they don’t. NZ is suffering form losing so much talant overseas eg caller hayman, steve donald, nick evens, luke mcalister, Kaino, thorn, SBW it does harm NZ rugby. They are not unstoppable and can’t keep bleeding so much talant. And now losing Alby Mathewson to the force does hurt NZ, as they have to find another player to replace him. And they simply do not have unlimited depth.

        • September 21st 2012 @ 9:43am
          allblackfan said | September 21st 2012 @ 9:43am | ! Report

          Losing Alby won’t hurt NZ, Johnno.
          There’s already a couple of halfbacks running around the TM Cup, fresh out of school, who look the goods — Hohaia West, for one (from the u20s ABs), and Nathan George (?) for Manawatu.

    • Roar Guru

      September 20th 2012 @ 3:39pm
      Jiggles said | September 20th 2012 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

      The conference system is a red herring. teams will get found out and so far the right team has won the comp both times. The Reds made it in to the finals but they were quickly dispatched by the Sharks in the first round. I think that was a fair result considered how both teams had played this year. The Chiefs were the best team all year and deserved to win.

      Winning this comp is a simple equation. Go about your business, don’t loose any home games, and try and win as many cross conference games as you can. The Reds did that in 2011 and the Chiefs did that in 2012.

      • September 25th 2012 @ 2:15pm
        Ryan said | September 25th 2012 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

        The thing is teams shouldn’t have to “Get found out”
        Teams should be there on merit not some poor quota system to make fans feel good about themselves.

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