Super Rugby suffers from ridiculous travel requirements, maddening scheduling and mystifying fixture lists. How does scrapping a side in Australia or in South Africa fix any of those fundamental problems?
There continues to be a total lack of vision and common sense.
Firstly, can the will of SANZAAR really prevail over the ANC in South Africa? The sport is highly politicised and the idea of relegating the Southern Kings to the dust bin seems wishful thinking.
Even if that happens, how long until the sport and competition are held to ransom again?
Secondly, it makes no sense to chuck the Jaguares and Sunwolves out. Agustín Pichot now sits on the World Rugby board and would fight that tooth and nail, while Japan are hosting the 2019 World Cup – why withdraw from that market just as it promises free advertising and growth?
Much has been written about the failure of Australian Super Rugby sides in the recent past. Yet the Reds won the comp in 2011 and the Waratahs in 2014. No South African side has won it since 2010.
If you asked the Chiefs or Blues whether they’d rather play Melbourne or the Kings, they’d take the Kings every time. The Force are better than both Melbourne and the Kings combined this year.
I don’t see that scrapping the Rebels or Force is a must, however it seems a foregone conclusion.
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With all that in mind, how to fix Super Rugby?
The competition should be divided into the following four pools:
Pool A: Five South African franchises
Pool B: Five New Zealand franchises
Pool C: Four Australian franchises and the Sunwolves
Pool D: Jaguares, Uruguay XV, Canada XV, USA XV
Each side would play home-and-away fixtures within its own pool. This would immediately lead to guaranteed local derbies and far less travel.
At the end of the home-and-away rounds, the top two sides from each pool would go into a cup competition, where quarter and semi-finals are played before a grand final.
The remaining sides would play in shield and plate competitions.
Not only does this guarantee less travel and more local derbies, it mirrors the format used in the Rugby World Sevens, one of the bigger rugby success stories over the past decade.
Pool D could also be expanded to five teams after initially being restricted to four. Candidates for the fifth place could be a Pacific Islands XV or a second side from the United States.
Of course, there will be push back from New Zealand.
The Kiwis will argue that all five of their sides should be eligible to qualify for the top eight – and there is merit to that argument. However, there is a big picture that needs to be considered.
We owe it to the game to grow it. Excluding Japan or Argentina or ignoring the United States and the Pacific Islands is wrong.
It is not out of the question for South Africa to pull the plug and head to Europe if the completion deteriorates further, and Australian rugby really is at a crossroads. Things either change or it dies a slow and agonising death over the next five to ten years.
If either of those scenarios play out, how is New Zealand rugby a winner? It will be left without local competition.
Super Rugby is dysfunctional and not fit for purpose. It is falling apart and SANZAAR needs to stop the rot, quickly and decisively.