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Opinion

Burning issue Super Rugby Pacific Commission must put top of its priority list

28th June, 2023
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28th June, 2023
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Another season of Super Rugby Pacific behind us and another Crusaders title to add to what must be one of the biggest trophy cabinets in the professional game the world over.

Finally the time has arrived where this competition sits ready to take the next step we’ve been waiting too long for.

The concept of the independent commission to govern Super Rugby was first floated midway through the 2022 season, was announced by a three-way joint media release in December of that year, and we’re told, should be finalised in the next couple of months ready for the start of the 2024 season.

The proof will be in the pudding, breath won’t be held nor and will chickens be counted, but that is the timeline of events as it currently stands.

And for all of that, it still can’t happen soon enough.

But a few little discussions last week in the lead-up to the final, both on these pages and on the socials, just underlined why a centralised, competition-specific governance of Super Rugby Pacific is desperately needed and just how big a job this new body will have when the start.

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A comment of mine here on the site led to a little discussion about reliable sources of Super Rugby Pacific stats, where I had to concede that my own frustration about reliable sources about a decade ago led to me to building my own set of stats. Rather than having to use multiple sources to get the set of information I wanted, especially for commentary preparations, I created my own record out of necessity.

I did the same thing for all six seasons of the National Rugby Championship for the same reason.

Damian McKenzie of the Chiefs charges forward during the Super Rugby Pacific Final match between Chiefs and Crusaders at FMG Stadium Waikato, on June 24, 2023, in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Damian McKenzie of the Chiefs. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

But I’m obviously not the only person who wants to be able to look at goal-kicking, and tallies of yellow and red cards, or a team’s leading try scorers and how that compares to the other teams. These aren’t particularly niche stats and they should all just be readily available. I shouldn’t have to have built my own record.

Particularly when these stats do exist in Super Rugby Pacific now.

SANZAAR’s official stats for both The Rugby Championship and Super Rugby Pacific are supplied by Opta Sports, and the same data feeds both the TRC and SRP websites, as well as other outlets like RUGBY.com.au and ESPN. But what you see on those sites are a small snapshot of a more comprehensive data set, which is used in weekly match packs provided to media outlets. I’m sure the bigger set we get in those match pack aren’t the full set, either.

So they have the data at their fingertips. They just don’t publish most of it.

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And the shame of that is when you look at the depth of player and team stats available on the Premiership Rugby and United Rugby Championship websites. Similarly, the stats offering on the Six Nations and Autumn Nations series sites far outweigh what we see for The Rugby Championship and Super Rugby Pacific.

Stats can help form opinions, create narratives, and better educate those fans who seek them out.

People in tipping comps want to know how long it’s been since the Chiefs lost to Queensland at home. People playing fantasy competitions are trying to work out which of the two backrowers they’re considering gives away the fewer penalties.

If you’ll pardon the pun, you can bet people having a wager on any particular game would love more information.

Richie Mo’unga of the Crusaders celebrates  (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Provide that sort of information, and people will consume the product more. So why not help them become more informed as fans?

On the topic of tipping and fantasy contests, there should be official competitions – with weekly updates and more and more being made of it as the season reaches its’ conclusion. Fijian winners, New Zealand winners, Australian winners. And of course, an overall champion.

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I know there was an official tipping come being promoted at the start of the 2023 season, but for the life of me, I can’t see in on the Super Rugby website now.

Social media should be – and has to be – one of the most priorities for the new commission, and we have to get away from this crazy situation where NZR run their own versions of Super Rugby social accounts focussed only on their teams.

If one of the biggest criticisms of Super Rugby is that no-one knows about teams from another country, then let’s start promoting all teams and all players to everyone, everywhere. Help push the narratives and the storylines wider, not narrower. Let rivalries cross borders and embrace them.

Give people a reason to watch any game. Outline why it’s important. Explain what’s on the line for the key players.

And for goodness sake, encourage content creators to share highlights and make their own analysis video clips instead of issuing petty copyright requests. Take geoblocks off official highlights clips and full game replays. If people don’t want to pay a subscription service to watch games live, then don’t punish them by restricting access to replays.

It should be easy to find a replay, not difficult. Let more people consume the product!

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But above all else, Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby, just get the commission done so that they can get on with all this.

Let the clubs look after themselves and not feeling the need to advocate for the competition they play in. Let the clubs be as strong and as well-run as they can be, and competition benefits.

The sooner the competition can be run as the primary focus for an organisation and not an afterthought in the back a corner of two national union offices, it will be absolutely the better.

And when that happens, fans will be more than happy to climb aboard for the ride.

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