The Super Rugby format cannot change for 2017

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert

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    The Hurricanes took out the 2016 final pretty much as everyone thought they would. An exceptional defensive effort that was already beyond 200 minutes without conceding a try was pushed almost to 300 minutes.

    The Hurricanes had less possession and a smaller share of territory, but it didn’t matter. They played the conditions better and tackled themselves into the ground. Their rush defence stopped the Lions’ attack in its tracks, forcing errors and turnovers. By the end of the game it looked like they were doing it for fun.

    » Check out the complete 2017 Super Rugby draw right here

    20-3 was pretty comprehensive. On the few occasions the Lions had opportunities, they either made the wrong decision or turned the ball over. Or both.

    Several of you mentioned that decision to shun three points in the first half and take the scrum option as being one of those ‘big moments’ I spoke of last week, both in these forums and on social media. And it did feel like a big moment from the moment Glenn Jackson signalled ‘scrum’. The Lions lost the scrum, the ‘Canes cleared out of their own 22, and the men from South Africa remained up against it for the rest of the game.

    None of this should take away from what the Lions achieved in 2016. To come from not even playing Super Rugby in 2013 to be in the final just three seasons later – with largely the same coaching staff and playing group – is an extraordinary turnaround.

    It’s very easy to say after the event that Johan Ackermann erred in not sending his first XV to Argentina in Round 17. ‘This game could’ve been at Ellis Park,’ they said. Ackermann himself acknowledged post-match that it will remain a topic of debate.

    It’s not that simple, and the debate rarely considers the other factors at play in why the call was made.

    Would the Lions first XV have won, or at least secured a bonus point in Buenos Aires? Maybe. They might’ve won comfortably; they might still have lost by 12.

    But don’t forget that that same weekend, the Hurricanes started their extraordinary run of defence, and beat the Crusaders by 25 in Christchurch! That bonus point is what snuck the ‘Canes into top spot.

    That unlikely result – 77 per cent of well over 400 Crowd votes that round were for the Crusaders – was as much a factor in the Lions final finishing result as Ackermann’s selection and player management decision.

    Regardless, the Lions should be looking forward to next year, because they have another genuine chance to top the standings in 2017.

    The group and conference format of Super Rugby means that the Lions’ Africa 2 conference will be paired with the Australian conference, avoidinh the New Zealand teams completely, just like the Stormers did this season.

    If they can hold the playing group together – I’m only aware of Franco Mostert moving on currently – then they would have to start next season as one of the competition favourites.

    But what may count against them is a forced change to the Super Rugby format. SANZAAR are said to be reviewing the format for 2018, and if there are to be changes to made, that is the time. It’s only fair that the current format sees out the full rotation before any recalibrations are made.

    Africa 1 winners the Stormers were said to be the big winners of the conference setup in 2016, yet even their coach Robbie Fleck said that he wanted to face off against all the New Zealand teams before any changes are made.

    “It’s got to run its course obviously and next year we will play the Kiwi sides in the same format,” Fleck said after his side qualified for the playoffs as the third seed.

    “Certainly the ground feeling is there will be changes come 2018 … but we need to see how it goes next year when we do play the Kiwi sides.”

    The curve ball in all this is a little closer to home for both the Stormers and Lions.

    The Port Elizabeth-based EP Kings, the commercial arm of Eastern Province Rugby and holders of the Southern Kings’ licence to participate in Super Rugby, was last week liquidated with debts close to R60 million. They received a bailout over the weekend and survived a humiliating vote of the other unions, with the net result being that they will remain in the top tier of this year’s Currie Cup competition.

    At this point, and though the Nelspruit-based Pumas are said to be rather interested in getting their hands on it, the South African rugby unions have said the Super Rugby licence will remain in Port Elizabeth under SARU control. But we all know things can change when it comes to rugby and politics in South Africa.

    Whoever holds the licence, and wherever the sixth team resides, it’s imperative for the competition – and lucrative broadcast contracts, probably – that the format remains in its current form.

    And the Lions will be sweating it.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (78)

    • Roar Guru

      August 9th 2016 @ 4:50am
      Nobrain said | August 9th 2016 @ 4:50am | ! Report

      Very good summary Brett, I did not know that Franco Mostert was leaving the franchise, imo he had a great year and as I read today elected by Planet Rugby also in the ideal SR team of the year. I agree with you that no changes should be made for 2017 and stick with the original plan and wait to see the overall results before making changes in 2018.

      • Roar Guru

        August 9th 2016 @ 6:20am
        Shop said | August 9th 2016 @ 6:20am | ! Report

        Yep, has to stay the same next year for the integrity of the comp.

        Also, NB, just got my tickets to the Pumas v AB’s. Last time I saw the Darkness live was when they lost the 2003 semi to Australia. Hopefully I can put the mocker on them again!

        • August 9th 2016 @ 11:16am
          Nobrain said | August 9th 2016 @ 11:16am | ! Report

          Great Shop, I also have mine already. If you wish pls ask Patrick to pass me your email address and we can get in touch with you before or after the game.

          • Roar Guru

            August 9th 2016 @ 11:29am
            Shop said | August 9th 2016 @ 11:29am | ! Report

            Sure NB, it would be great to meet a fellow roarer this side of the world. I’ve never been to Velez but I imagine there must be an easy place to meet.

            Patrick, is there a protocol or something to pass on email addresses?

            • August 9th 2016 @ 11:37am
              Nobrain said | August 9th 2016 @ 11:37am | ! Report

              No problem, I can drive you there if you want.

              • Roar Guru

                August 9th 2016 @ 1:47pm
                Shop said | August 9th 2016 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

                I’ll be with a few friends so probably a bit hard. Also, don’t know where in BA we are staying yet.
                Really looking forward to it! I have to drive to San Juan because the Mendoza airport is closed for 3 months (puedes creer)!?!

      • August 9th 2016 @ 4:00pm
        CUW said | August 9th 2016 @ 4:00pm | ! Report

        @ Nobrain :

        Mostert is similar case to Rene Ranger. he joined LYON (LYON LION , what’s the difference , right ? 🙂 ) at a time he was not a bok , for two years.

        then due to injuries he was selected to play in the mid year tests. after that saffers were keen to keep him at home , just like all blacks were keen to keep Ranger from going to France.

        however Lyon have put their foot down and said no effin way.

        http://www.planetrugby.com/news/lyon-mostert-will-come-in-november/

    • Roar Rookie

      August 9th 2016 @ 5:35am
      samalavich said | August 9th 2016 @ 5:35am | ! Report

      hi brett i agree that the format should run it’s course. i know that there has been quite a bit of discontent in regards to the current layout of super rugby, but i have to say it hasn’t bothered me. this year has produced some great rugby. true not every game was a classic but i don’t think that any standards have dropped. i hope that the new teams win a few more games next year, maybe the jags can live up to expectations. in regards to any changes that come in 2018… what can they involve? further expansion? new format same teams? surely not contraction? lions seem sure to feature in the finals again next year and will what looks now to be a dream run through to the finals – still as they have shown themselves things can change quick in super rugby

      • August 9th 2016 @ 7:20pm
        Silent1 said | August 9th 2016 @ 7:20pm | ! Report

        I think 2018 they should add another Arg and Jap or Asia side to even up the conferences and give both the Jaguares and SunWolves a local rivallry and less travel albeit one or two matches then as is. Sure both teams may take a hit by losing players to said sides but provided by then a few European based Arg players should be coming off or off contract and want to come home to play SR and be eligible for the Pumas and JRU get a better deal from Top League companies they both can afford to lose some players and the new sides wont be as raw as the pioneering sides.

        That way come 2021 (new broadcast deal year) these 4 plus 2 North American sides (USA and Can) can form their own conference and Aus (P.I or West Sydney) and Nz (Central North Island or P.I) can expand by a side each to give a 4 x 6 team conference format.

    • August 9th 2016 @ 6:03am
      Red Block said | August 9th 2016 @ 6:03am | ! Report

      The only change I’d make to the format is the Force and Sunwolves should swap conferences. This would be a win-win situation. The Saffers have to travel less and Oz gets a foot in a much easier conference plus the Japanese get more exposure to rugby in Oz and NZ.

      • Columnist

        August 9th 2016 @ 10:11am
        Brett McKay said | August 9th 2016 @ 10:11am | ! Report

        not sure I can agree with that..

      • August 9th 2016 @ 2:56pm
        mtiger said | August 9th 2016 @ 2:56pm | ! Report

        Nice idea. Why not

    • August 9th 2016 @ 7:14am
      Wardad said | August 9th 2016 @ 7:14am | ! Report

      iIf we must have the conference format instead of a round robin then 3 conferences with SA having all of their teams and Australia and NZ each having either the Jags or Sunnies .Its a hell of a lot easier to top a 4 team than a 5 or 6 team conference though innit ?

      • Columnist

        August 9th 2016 @ 10:04am
        Brett McKay said | August 9th 2016 @ 10:04am | ! Report

        Well yeah, it probably is. And I’m not against a format change, for what it’s worth, just not next season..

        • August 9th 2016 @ 12:52pm
          ClarkeG said | August 9th 2016 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

          I read that Brazil Rugby is planning a submission to SANZAAR for a super rugby team by 2019.

          I can see a South American conference on the horizon.

          • Columnist

            August 9th 2016 @ 1:08pm
            Brett McKay said | August 9th 2016 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

            Maybe even an American conference fully, Clarke. I don’t think it’s too big a stretch to see Canadian and US teams either..

            • August 9th 2016 @ 2:04pm
              ClarkeG said | August 9th 2016 @ 2:04pm | ! Report

              Yep you may well be right Brett.

              We have seen this year the first Americas Rugby Championship (Can,US,Arg,Chile,Brazil, Uruguay)

              Makes sense.

              • August 9th 2016 @ 4:16pm
                CUW said | August 9th 2016 @ 4:16pm | ! Report

                if it happens , then it will be another nail in the coffin of super rugger.

                the americas can have their own competition in a similar vein to euros. ok , granted USA Canada Brazil , et al are not exactly NZ and OZ, BUT from a geographic point of view and eyeballs point of view it will be more commercially viable and will have critical mass for market penetration.

                i mean america is like the 3rd biggest tv market behind china and india (both of which dont watch a lot of rugger). when u add usa (320mio ) + Brazil (200 mio) + mexico (125 mio) + south africa (55mio) + kenya (45mio) + canada (35 mio) + argentina 40 mio) + a few other countries, it will be the second biggest market for any game / sport , even bigger than europe.

                further given the proximity of south africa and say Kenya Namibia etc. it would be more feasible logistically , than traveling from americas / africa to OZ/NZ .

                the success of euros , despite the complaints and grimbling and sometimes atrocios rugger is mainly becoz of proximity. and being in a more affluent market than some of the others.

            • August 9th 2016 @ 5:50pm
              American Dave said | August 9th 2016 @ 5:50pm | ! Report

              I think this might be the ticket, especially with the planned expansion of PRO Rugby into Canada next season.

              A couple years to start building a supporter base and player base to take the step up and then explore the possibility of establishing an America’s Pool, though it will still remain a complicated beast.

    • August 9th 2016 @ 8:14am
      70s Mo said | August 9th 2016 @ 8:14am | ! Report

      So there are 4 groups with the top 2 from each group making the quarter finals – is that how it works? Actually I don’t think so. At least the cream still rises to the top so that is good enough for me.

      • Columnist

        August 9th 2016 @ 10:04am
        Brett McKay said | August 9th 2016 @ 10:04am | ! Report

        No, that’s not how it works..

    • August 9th 2016 @ 8:28am
      Whakaata said | August 9th 2016 @ 8:28am | ! Report

      On a side note, this reffing in the 7s final is nothing short of atrocious, in Australia’s first try there was a knock on in the lead up and in the act of scoring in their 3rd try holding on and a knock on.
      What a disgrace!

      • August 9th 2016 @ 9:42am
        TH McProp said | August 9th 2016 @ 9:42am | ! Report

        Fair go, cobber! I thought we Aussies were the only ones allowed to claim “we wuz robbed”?

      • August 9th 2016 @ 1:05pm
        Scrumma said | August 9th 2016 @ 1:05pm | ! Report

        Can’t win them all box ?

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