No easy answers to this Super debacle

Hugh Jarse Roar Rookie

By Hugh Jarse, Hugh Jarse is a Roar Rookie


30 Have your say

    As a long-standing Super Rugby fan, who has adored the competition for years – watching Lions versus Western Force replays just to satisfy my cravings – the funny business we seem to have stepped in is really grinding my gears.

    Quality of rugby. Money. Time zones. All valid issues that have plagued our spectator experience for years now have suddenly, and alarmingly, burst into a convoluted mess.

    There isn’t any hiding from the never-before-seen dominance of New Zealand sides, the never-before-seen passitivity of the South African conference, and the never-before-seen haplessness of the boys from Down Under.

    Then there’s the disgrace that is the Sunwolves, a side that get together the week before the tournament starts for a team run, before going out and getting belted every game, happy to concede as long as the fans enjoy some exciting rugby.

    I have, with a great sadness, come to accept that desperate times call for desperate measures. I just don’t know what these measures should be.

    Everyone seems to have their own great ideas and it’s time to put them into perspective.

    Cut the teams in Super Rugby
    This would see one Australian side, one South African side, and potentially more teams omitted from Super Rugby.

    This would increase the quality, however it would also remove pathway opportunities in existing rugby catchments, and waste the funding consumed up until this point.

    Global Champions League
    Domestic sides (ITM Cup, NRC, Currie Cup etc.) play a round robin within their own country, before the top few go into a finals series.

    Overall this is a much simpler, fairer tournament. However, too many teams with quality players (assuming international players are distributed evenly around) won’t see finals action.

    Global tournament
    Super Rugby sides, Top 14 sides and more play round robin and a finals series.

    This would embrace rugby’s global element and create a more interesting spectacle. However, time zones would be a huge issue, as would the coordination of all rugby bodies in Tier 1 and 2 nations.

    Additionally, it would diminish the value of the World Cup if rugby is regularly a global fixture.

    There are more options which I haven’t gone over, with some being mixtures of these, but when analysing each option, it’s clear that there is no easy solution.

    What I believe should happen is a Pacific Nations tournament involving Super Rugby teams from Australia and New Zealand, as well as teams from Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Japan. This would minimise the travel required and make coordinating the competition a bit easier. It would allow for the growth of rugby in the Pacific Islands to be given more support.

    However, it probably isn’t the most profitable option and would leave Argentina and South Africa on the other side of a big rift.

    There are positives and negatives to every solution however it seems as though the weak, useless option would be to dismiss the poor performance of some teams as ‘cyclical’ and take no action. Drastic change is a must.

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    The Crowd Says (30)

    • Roar Guru

      March 21st 2017 @ 12:59pm
      Nobrain said | March 21st 2017 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

      So you want to leave SA and Argentina in one side. It came to my attention that the SR teams from SA are sending their B teams to play the Jaguares in Argentina. Imo if SA is left alone it will manage a way to play in Europe competition somehow, and Argentina will follow through making base in Spain and using most of the players that they have already in Europe. So it will be East and West instead of NH and SH. Why not?

      • March 22nd 2017 @ 5:20pm
        DaveB said | March 22nd 2017 @ 5:20pm | ! Report

        Spot on. If SA can’t play NZ and Aus sides in the pool games then we should look North . No time zone issues. These days the players fly Business Class. Overnight flight.

        Question is- will the North take us?

        The part many miss is I such a move could also compromise the 4N.

        • March 22nd 2017 @ 5:38pm
          AndyS said | March 22nd 2017 @ 5:38pm | ! Report

          So the question might be, why go begging to them? It is unlikely that they would be willing to play any games in the middle of a SA summer, so all your rugby would be up there and at your cost. But there are lots of teams excluded from the real money that might consider playing during their summer against the best of SA. The new version of the HC was a big win for the English and French clubs, so it certainly wasn’t for others. And there are plenty missing out altogether. Why not do it on your terms?

    • March 21st 2017 @ 2:20pm
      kunming tiger said | March 21st 2017 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

      You made some valid points without offering any real solutions.

      • March 21st 2017 @ 3:11pm
        Hugh Jarse said | March 21st 2017 @ 3:11pm | ! Report

        My solution is the final Pacific Nations tournament involving Aussie, NZ, Jap, Fiji Samoa and Tonga

    • March 21st 2017 @ 3:12pm
      Hugh Jarse said | March 21st 2017 @ 3:12pm | ! Report

      Tournament with Au, Nz, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Japan

      • March 31st 2017 @ 2:22pm
        yourmatesam said | March 31st 2017 @ 2:22pm | ! Report

        We miss you

    • March 21st 2017 @ 3:27pm
      Blue Horned Mike said | March 21st 2017 @ 3:27pm | ! Report

      Wow! So many suggest a Trans-Tasman competition! But it would just not ever come to light due to New Zealand wanting to play the SA sides and a huge chunk of revenue through SA’s pay TV would be gone.

      A simpler idea would be to have 3 conferences of 6 with the Sunwolves joining the Australian Conference, no team cut from Australia, and the Jaguares joining the New Zealand Conference.

      Each team plays the teams in their conference home+away and play three teams from each of the other two conferences with 3 home and 3 away. The top 2 of each conference qualifies and the next best 2 teams.

      I suggested this in an article from a few weeks back. Travel would be reduced considerably. Yes, there would an outcry for not every team playing every team. But that is unavoidable if you want to go for something simple that will reduce travel.

      • March 21st 2017 @ 9:53pm
        Hugh Jarse said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:53pm | ! Report

        Yes the conference system has always been the demise of the tournament and for that reason I believe in this pacific nations tournament.

        I think the 3 conference system is also a reasonable solution however still makes little impact when dealing with the crux of the issue.

      • March 22nd 2017 @ 1:21am
        John said | March 22nd 2017 @ 1:21am | ! Report

        The Conference format is unfair. If you take a snapshot of the top (8) teams based only on points accumulated to date then the teams would be Chiefs (19), Crusaders (16), Hurricanes (15), Lions (14), Jaguares (14), Sharks (13), Stormers (13) and Brumbies (10).
        If the finals were held next weekend then these teams should be in the finals. NZ – 3 teams, South Africa – 3 teams, Argentina – 1 team and Australia – 1 team.
        Your suggested scenario using the Conference system would see good teams excluded and teams with less points playing in the finals. This is the mess we have now and the supporters and sponsors aren’t happy with it.

    • March 21st 2017 @ 3:54pm
      cuw said | March 21st 2017 @ 3:54pm | ! Report

      there are few differences in super rugger compared to other tournaments. the only comparable tournament i can think of is Indian IPL cricket, which aims to pool together best players form the world into a few teams and play a round-robbin league.

      if u take any other rugger tournament like Aviva or top 14 or Japanese league – the teams that compete in them do not change for a regional tournament like euros. but in the case of super rugger, the teams that play at a lower level are not directly replicated.

      the idea of super rugger is to have an elite competition just below test level and above club/ regional / provincial/ state level. with super rugger growing from 10 to 12 to 14 to whatever , this has diluted. as Clyde rathborne has said – its back to the future.

      i would think there are 2 ways to go . one is to reduce the number of teams to a manageable level like 14 max. 5NZ, 4SA, 4OZ, ARG.

      other option is to make it a two tier tournament with 18 or even 20 teams with a promotion – demotion system – like in the footy leagues .

      i for one think there are far too many teams that cannot get hold of sufficient top class players to compete at the highest level – which leads to some very boring onesided matches. reducing the number of teams will ensure more very good players will be playing against eaach other.

      the notion that reducing the number of teams will close the options for players is silly. if u take IPL , do all players from the test playing countries get contracts? no – that is the idea. also super rugger shud not be looked at as a development path – that shud be club or provincial or state duty. for eg – not all guys who play ITM get picked for super rugger.

      lastly – people who plan these things have forgotten the fans. for eg. only very recently did i learn that this year u get a try bonus if u score 3 more than ur opponent. last year this was 4. if u keep shifting posts all day , it becomes difficult for people to follow. of course the die hard fans will go to the end of earth – but all the rest will not bother. super rugger has lost user friendliness with all these changes and structures. they need to apply kiss theory – keep it simple stupid !

    • Roar Guru

      March 21st 2017 @ 7:04pm
      Harry Jones said | March 21st 2017 @ 7:04pm | ! Report

      If the SH response to NH club dominance is to split up, we will have done precisely what the NH wants

      • Roar Guru

        March 21st 2017 @ 8:03pm
        sheek said | March 21st 2017 @ 8:03pm | ! Report

        Yes Harry,

        I believe I have the answer, much to TWAS’s, & others’ disgust.

        If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. I’m not suggesting for one minute that all off southern hemisphere head north.

        I’m saying we adopt their structures, which I believe is the secret to their success. Of course, they have bigger populations & bigger markets, which helps, but their structures are the key.

        Just as the domestic structures of NZ are the key to their on-field success at all levels.

        So South Africa has its Currie Cup, NZ has its NPC, Argentina has its Campeonato Argentino & Australia comes up with something of its own, NRC, ARC, APC, Wallaby Shield, whatever.

        Then the Champion’s Cup pulls the top two from each domestic comp. Yes, here it’s likely the Argentine & to a lesser extent, Aussie teams will be exposed. But it’s a short comp at this point, & hopefully these countries will lift their domestic standards over time.

        Importantly, it gives the fans of each country the opportunity to see home grown players playing for home grown teams in front of home grown fans at home grown stadiums on home grown TV.

        Plus, the fans in each country get to view the highlights from the other countries.

        All topped off with the Rugby Championship.

        Forget Asia, forget North America. Too simple, it’s ridiculous.

        • Roar Guru

          March 22nd 2017 @ 3:01am
          Harry Jones said | March 22nd 2017 @ 3:01am | ! Report

          But then a guy like Eben Etzebeth will make a lot less money, and surely will not be able to justify giving up the extra 500,000 Euros.

          • Roar Guru

            March 22nd 2017 @ 8:41am
            Train Without A Station said | March 22nd 2017 @ 8:41am | ! Report

            Exactly. Sheek always ignores the money is necessary to play the players.

            • Roar Guru

              March 22nd 2017 @ 9:47am
              sheek said | March 22nd 2017 @ 9:47am | ! Report


              I belong to the body of opinion that if you build sound structures first, then the success will follow as a matter of course.

              Not the other way around, trying to chase the money without bedding down sound structures.

              Now bag me all you like, but the most successful people & organisations have laid down the solid foundations first.

              Imagine if the founding fathers like Bradfield & others who built the Sydney Harbour Bridge had gone for only 4-6 lanes instead of 12 – there’s 8 vehicle, 2 train, one cycle & one footpath lane.

              That’s what they do today, only enough to get them by, the future is somebody else’s problem.

              Same with super rugby, just get through the next 5 year TV broadcasting cycle. Little thought to long-term sustainability.

              Deep down TWAS, you KNOW I’m right!

              • Roar Guru

                March 22nd 2017 @ 10:18am
                Train Without A Station said | March 22nd 2017 @ 10:18am | ! Report

                That’s all well and good Sheek but I can assure you that any quality managers consider solvency non negotiable.

                You need to look at the numbers if you want to say something is a viable alternative.

                Let’s say we went for an 8 team Australian Competition.

                Netball has managed a deal of $3.4M per year for 2 prime time games and 2 delayed.

                Let’s say 4 prime time games is double that at $6.8M per year.

                Great, we are on FTA. The problem is instead of $50+M per year for Super Rugby and Tests, we now get $6.8M a year for NRC and $25M per year for tests.

                That’s now down to $31.8M TV revenue.

                Currently we distribute $33.5M to the franchises for player salaries and support costs. Let’s ignore the fact that 8 teams may require more and assume we maintain costs. The competition is already down $1.7M against the TV Revenue.

                Based on previous years, that would see the ARU, which were on the brink of insolvency, lose $1M of more for every intermediate year, then around $10M for the RWC year.

                If they had signed up to that instead of the current broadcast agreement, by the time it expires in 2022, the ARU would have potentially lost $14M.

                But that wouldn’t have happened. Because they would have been insolvent by next year.

                The current TV deal was essential, because it provided an extra $25M in income every year. That’s $125M extra income over the life of the deal. That means that the RWC year $10M loss actually comes out to about a $6M profit after the additional $8.5M they are now distributing to the franchises.

                Organisations on the verge of insolvency cannot overlook money in the short term for long term benefit, as they won’t be around long enough to see that benefit.

              • Roar Guru

                March 22nd 2017 @ 1:10pm
                sheek said | March 22nd 2017 @ 1:10pm | ! Report

                Okay TWAS,

                I don’t know where you get your figures from, or that they’re the only figures we can work off.

                I do know there would be short, maybe medium term financial pain involved (my suggested structures), but I truly believe if ARU gets its structures right, it will eventually be sustainable long-term.

                Terrific they’re getting all this broadcast money now, but hello, the game is still a mess in Australia.

                So all that revenue isn’t really helping, is it, if the ARU is just throwing good money after bad, while operating with inefficient, maybe, even plain bad structures.

              • Roar Guru

                March 22nd 2017 @ 1:24pm
                Train Without A Station said | March 22nd 2017 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

                Sheek, my figures are from the ARU annual reports, and the reported figures for Netball and Rugby’s new deals.

                I did take creative licence to assume that half would be allocated to Super Rugby on the new deal.

                Not a stretch considering that our total Super Rugby and Test deal went from $20M to $25M with the addition of the Rebels.

                So I know what the ARU is getting. I know what the market is paying for other sports for FTA with similar followings, on the intention of prime time broadcast.

                What you cannot explain is how with nothing in the bank, the ARU can make it through a single broadcast cycle on it.

                It’s not short term pain if they become insolvent. It’s death.

                That’s the plain truth of it. The ARU aren’t being short sighted only worried about short term gain. They are only worried about not dying in the immediate future.

                You are so fixated on your view that you just can’t see the forest from the trees on this.

                What do you need to be able to sustain short term financial pain? Money in the bank.
                What will be provided over the life of the broadcast deal in it’s current format? Enough revenue to put money in the bank.

                You literally want the ARU to do something, but are critical of them doing what they need to, in order to put themselves in the position to do this.

              • March 22nd 2017 @ 3:32pm
                AndyS said | March 22nd 2017 @ 3:32pm | ! Report

                Sheek, part of the problem seems to be that you say “short, maybe medium term financial pain” without ever examining just how much or what that might actually mean on the ground.

                During the GFC, there were lots of companies that struggled. I watched several consulting companies that I had previously worked with go through it, with various strategies. Several decided to do the equivalent of what you are talking about, restructuring the company to cut costs and appeal to a different sector of the market. But cutting of costs involved getting rid of the bulk of the senior staff and, as the market came out of the slump, they found they couldn’t win any work. They had forgotten that they were selling a discretionary product and others had stepped in to assume their market share, in some cases even with their previous employees.

                All of those companies are now either out of business, or are merely a division of another company following a take-over.

              • Roar Guru

                March 22nd 2017 @ 3:44pm
                Train Without A Station said | March 22nd 2017 @ 3:44pm | ! Report

                That’s my concern Andy.

                If Australian rugby disappears out of the limelight, it may never make it back.

            • March 22nd 2017 @ 10:29am
              Republican said | March 22nd 2017 @ 10:29am | ! Report

              ……..a trickle down economics advocate no doubt……

        • Roar Guru

          March 22nd 2017 @ 7:53am
          Nobrain said | March 22nd 2017 @ 7:53am | ! Report

          We already have that, in a matter of fact there is a big issue that the Jaguares games (against SA teams)are played at the same time that the domestic competition is played. Still we put 10,000 fans in the stadium and we will probably double this number on Saturday against the Reds since it will be played latter in the evening.