When you open a manufacturing business one of the first decisions you make is whether you are going into mass production or whether you are manufacturing niche products.
It is really a very simple decision. You either make a run of the mill product that can be sold on every street corner, every chain store, at every outhouse, café or commercial outlet for a buck, or you manufacture a quality product that is sold in specialist and high end stores for a tidy profit.
SANZAAR should be addressing the same issue. Do they want to continue along the path of producing an ever expanding run of the mill even, i.e. just another rugby tournament? Or do they come back to the realisation that quality is more desirable than quantity?
They have to face the reality that stadiums are getting emptier and viewership numbers are not increasing relative to the extra teams and matches.
It is also time to realise that the SANZAAR nations are not going to compete with the European market when it comes to the salaries.
Europe has the advantage due to a collective of strong economies, close proximity which leads to little travelling time and no time zone issues.
Add to that the fact that if the expansions from Super 12, to Super 14, to Super Rugby and ultimately to Super 18 have not stemmed the tide of players migrating to Europe, then logic dictates going for further expansion won’t stop the tide either.
The logical step is to start ring fencing and protecting a core of players in each nation and stop the incessant and sometimes competing demands from different member nations.
The ‘product’ needs to improve in quality.
Less is more and competitiveness is key.
Each nation must decide for themselves how many teams can they enter into Super Rugby that actually stand a chance of winning the tournament.
The tournament for the sake of credibility has no alternative but to have a full single round robin where everyone plays everyone.
The season should preferably be short enough not to interfere and negate the domestic competitions of each country.
Does SANZAAR know that the European Champions League only requires nine weeks to complete?
Super Rugby is supposed to be an elite competition, yet currently it has become the be all and end all of Southern hemisphere rugby for the wrong reasons.
I am not going to propose how many teams Australia should enter as they are split among themselves as to who should or shouldn’t be in Super Rugby.
From a South African point of view there should only be four teams.
New Zealand can justifiably have five teams.
If we assume the Aussies can agree to four teams you would have a Super 13 excluding Argentina and Japan.
For selfish reasons that would be my preferred solution.
Super XIII with a 12-week single round robin and semi and final. That will take 14 weeks to conclusion.
But to be honest expansion is more likely.
If they were to go with the exansion route then my suggestion is two pools, mixed and drawn out of three hats, or even four hats. One for South Africa, New Zealand and Australia respectively and one called “the whoever else wants to enter a team”.
It then doesn’t really matter how many teams there are as long it is equal numbers and the tournament doesn’t run for longer than 52 weeks.
Getting back to my preferred solution. It is time the SANZAR nations learn from each other, it is time they must realise that polarised objectives is damaging to their sustainability of resources and player stock.
For that purpose a think tank where the best systems and processes from each nations should be adapted by all three.
If New Zealand’s central contracting is the best solution then let’s all use it. If South Africa’s university system is the best, then let’s all adapt it.
If Australia’s…. well you get the picture.
The time to work as a collective has never been more important.
Whatever SANZAR do as a collective, they need to focus on the sustainability of a core, currently SANZAR is playing a numbers game, and the numbers just don’t add up.
I am beginning to think that SANZAAR has fallen into the trap of expansion and somehow the numbers game makes sense to them even though every bit of evidence, like empty stadiums, complaints about time zones and so on, indicates they are wrong.
At what point do administrators stop listening to broadcasters and do they start listening to the people who pay the broadcasters for their services?
For me it is either go the less is more route, or South Africa should withdraw from Super Rugby. The current system is not improving their rugby, or retaining their coaches and players.
The Australians aren’t happy either, they are struggling with performances, viewership and sustainability of player stock. It really only seems that New Zealand is beyond the mess Super Rugby has become.
They are likely to go with anything that will allow them to play the teams they want to play.
I am therefore suggesting SARU should man up, either veto expansion and embrace less is more, or have the guts to withdraw from Super Rugby and focus internally on how to transform and fix rugby at home.
AS for the ARU, listen to your supporters, you have a vote of no confidence, you really should wake up.
As for Steve Tew, not everything is rosy in the land of the All Black, do you know that Auckland lose more rugby talent than any other city in the world?