However, while there is a financial cost to pulling out of Super Rugby (which has several implications), even if (best-case-scenario) Australia’s Super Rugby teams became more competitive and won more often, it just seems that Super Rugby can’t compete with the other codes in Australia.
Even winning Super Rugby in 2011 and 2014 hasn’t helped.
Perhaps many Australian rugby fans are a little deluded in wanting to go it alone, but they look at what the AFL and NRL has, and they see how rugby is simply fading within their culture. They are desperate. All they know is that it can’t go on the same way it is going, otherwise they are doomed anyway.
However, here is another way.
What if the number of weeks it takes to play Super Rugby (21-22 weeks), was divided into two shorter competitions, which essentially separated the local derbies from the international component of the current Super Rugby model.
So the first competition would be mainly domestic, based around the teams from the current conferences in Super Rugby.
So in Australia, the teams would be their four Super Rugby teams plus the Force and the Sunwolves = six teams.
In NZ, it would be their five SR teams plus Fiji (or a combined PI team) = six teams.
In SA it would their four SR teams plus the Jaguares and one other team = six teams.
Each team plays the other teams home and away and then a semi-final (second v third; first has bye) + a final = 12 weeks.
The second competition would be 16 teams divided into four pools of four teams each. The pools would be deliberately mixed.
Pool 1: SA 1, New Zealand 1, Oz 1, Jaguares
Pool 2: SA 2, New Zealand 2, Oz 2, Fiji (or a combined PI team)
Pool 3: SA 3, New Zealand 3, Oz 3, other team from SA conference (US?)
Pool 4: SA 4, New Zealand 4, New Zealand 5, Sunwolves
For this second competition, Australia would only enter three teams so that there are only 16 teams in total.
Australia’s three teams would be ‘state of origin’ style teams involving NSW, Queensland and a Combined States team.
Each team plays everyone in their own pool home and away = six weeks. The top two teams from each pool then progress to (cross pool) quarter finals, then semi-finals, then the final = nine weeks.
The competition structure is a lot easier to follow and should involve minimal complaints.
In the first competition, the amount of local derbies is only slightly more than what we currently have in SR anyway, except they becomes their own competition, which suits Australia because they can have their five teams and don’t need to worry about lack of depth. It even becomes a pseudo national domestic comp, that might have the ability to compete with the AFL and NRL.
In the second competition, there may be a couple of local derbies, but for many teams, there may be none. But importantly, each team gets at least 4-6 international fixtures, which suits NZ. Further, assuming the New Zealand teams are good enough, it’s possible for all New Zealand teams to make it through to the quarter finals.
And with Australia only entering three teams, they also become more competitive. And because they are state of origin style teams, it breathes new interest and passion into the international component of SR.
No doubt the first competition would lose some revenue, but not by much, and travel costs would be slashed.
It’s not a perfect model, but it might be a good compromise between Australia going it alone and the current Super Rugby model.