The not-so-super Super Rugby season begins earnestly on 15 February – yes, rugby is now a summer sport – and while this year’s competition will be slightly less truncated given it’s a World Cup yearm there is no break for June Test matches, so fans will have an uninterrupted 21 weeks of grueling rugby too look forward to.
However, there remains an abundance of issues facing SANZAAR’s premier Southern Hemisphere rugby competition, which has experienced a steady decline of viewers and attendance over the years, especially considering the outright success of the Super 12 and Super 14 formats of yesteryear.
The most glaring and obvious flaws relate to not only a ridiculous three-conference format, whereby a conference winner has immediate access to the play-offs with home ground advantage. SANZAAR’s obsession with local derbies, particularly in New Zealand and South Africa, have lost their appeal, and the physical toll on the players is tantamount to torture.
The paradoxical nature of this is conference system is that the Australian and South African conference winners very often have had less overall points than the second, third and at times even the fourth-placed New Zealand teams in their conference. Thus there is no reward for some teams that have earnt the right to be in play-off contention on merit due to their superior performances and overall log points throughout the regular season.
This lends itself to the decline of the integrity of the competition, and without integrity it becomes a farce as viewers, fans and the like feel they are being given a disservice by SANZAAR due to their utter and colossal greed for television revenue and constant team expansion. More money and more teams seem to be the only currency SANZAAR is willing to listen to. While some common sense unveiled itself by cutting Super Rugby from 18 to 15 teams was certainly a step in the right direction, since then it is quite frankly become a second-rate competition.
Once again the integrity or lack thereof is plain to see as teams do not play against every other team during the regular season. I ask with tears in my eyes how you can be crowned ‘champions’ when you haven’t played against everyone in your competition.
While a franchise will not play against only two teams, the integrity is once again cast aside and the title feels hollow, weak and misguided. SANZAAR have been so infatuated with what they perceive is best for Super Rugby that they have been incompetently complacent in mapping out a proper structure for the game going forward in the Southern Hemisphere.
The inclusion of teams such as the Sunwolves, Rebels and others of that ilk have been laughable. I understand the need to grow the game globally, but the Japanese franchise have been the competition’s whipping boys and their player roster is based on older players looking for a final payday. There’s also a lack of genuine Japanese youngsters being promoted from academies or schools into the franchise.
Yes, they have had some exceptional victories over the Bulls and Stormers recently, and kudos to them for that, but they are there based on financial gain for SANZAAR.
It is as obvious as putting lipstick on a pig – it’s still a pig.
Folau fatigue allowed Australian rugby’s second-most divisive talking point to resume centre-stage on Saturday night, with Waratah’s fly-half Bernard Foley showing that he’s not about to hand over the Wallabies No 10 jersey to Quade Cooper any time soon, helping his side to a 23-20 win against their conference rivals.
The Brumbies made two changes to the side that beat the Lions at home last week. Jahrome Brown replaced Lachlan McCaffrey at flanker and Irae Simone was replaced on the bench by New Zealand-born Wharenui Hawera.
While the Crusaders and Hurricanes might be running away with the competition at the moment, the battles for the other finals spots are really hotting up and over the coming weeks teams are going to be desperate to find that form and momentum that gets them into business end of the season.