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.
The Roar Rugby Project, which we’re launching today, is a forum, with a series of discussion articles intended to engage the numerous positive and productive minds of the Roar rugby community across the country at all levels of the game to enable the development of ideas from the “grassroots” up.
The Autumn Nations Series offered the opportunity to test the depth and vulnerability of the game patterns observed during the last Rugby Championship against those of the Six Nations teams. Many will say that they are not comparable, but it is worth exercising a little.