The Roar
The Roar

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Two new teams and a big show of faith to two more - how Super Rugby must kick on from a thrilling start to 2024

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Expert
11th March, 2024
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I’ve seldom been happier to see the All Blacks lose, than during their 2020 and 2022 defeats to Argentina.

Now, I don’t relish seeing the All Blacks lose. Well, not all the time anyway. But my interest in rugby extends well beyond the men in black.

It’s things such as competitiveness and development that enthuse me.

The Pumas’ 2020 and 2022 victories over New Zealand were the product of the Jaguares’ involvement in Super Rugby and I would be the first to applaud their mooted return to the competition, if it eventuated.
Just as I was thrilled to see the Fijian Drua beat the Crusaders over the weekend.

I try to dislike teams and players equally but, if you pushed me, I would have to admit I am a Crusaders enthusiast. And, yet, I was happy to see them beaten.

Happy for rugby, happy for the Fijian Drua and happy for Super Rugby Pacific. Which got me thinking about this competition.

I don’t welcome the Rebels’ likely demise, but it will hopefully concentrate Australia’s elite players across fewer franchises and give us four very useful teams.

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Vilive Miramira of the Fijian Drua runs with the ball during the round three Super Rugby Pacific match between Fijian Drua and Crusaders at Churchill Park, on March 9, 2024, in Lautoka, Fiji. (Photo by Pita Simpson/Getty Images)

If the Jaguares were to replace them, then that’s good for rugby.

As is Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua being permanently based out of the islands.

That’s part of my vision for this competition, as well as the return of a franchise from Japan.

Super Rugby Pacific has been a pleasant surprise in the last two weeks, because results have been unpredictable.

Just as it was highly enthusing to watch those wins for the Pumas in Sydney in Christchurch, that I’ve already referred to.

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I’d welcome Japan doing something similar to the All Blacks one day and a reprise of the Sunwolves would assist that.

My point of view is a fan one. I’ve never had any truck with arguments from players about travel.

If that’s to Tokyo or Buenos Aires or Lautoka, Apia and Nuku’alofa in future, then so be it. It levels the playing field, if nothing else. It also grows the game and has the potential to build better Test nations along the way.

Do we want to go the way of Test cricket and have three teams – India, England and Australia – playing each other on a seemingly endless loop? Or would we like Test rugby with, say 12 elite teams, all with chances of beating one another on a regular basis?

: Pumas head coach Michael Cheika hugs Julian Montoya of the Pumas after winning The Rugby Championship match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Argentina Pumas at Orangetheory Stadium on August 27, 2022 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Well, that partly starts with having a genuine presence in Super Rugby.

The knock on having teams based out of the Pacific is commercial. That there isn’t the population or sponsors to support a team all the time.

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Fair enough, but how much money was flushed down the dunny by having Moana Pasifika play the Rebels in front of an audience of dozens the other night?

Competitiveness drives interest, which drives commerce and there’s no doubt the Drua are more formidable at home. I don’t see how that’s bad for the game.

Watch every match of Super Rugby Pacific ad-free, live & on demand on the Home of Rugby, Stan Sport

New Zealand and Australia will always be all right. Sure, these might not be the most prosperous of times – on or off the park – for either nation, but we’ll survive for now and hopefully thrive again in the future.

But we don’t appear able to stage a competition on our own and alternatives are out there, in nations with a genuine rugby pedigree and culture.

Years ago, I remember a move to North America being talked about for Super Rugby. I know they’ve got a Rugby World Cup on the horizon, but I just don’t see that market ever being a legitimate one for rugby.
Not because there’s no cash, simply because there isn’t a legitimate rugby culture.

Japan has one of those. Argentina, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji too. Just as they have players or – certainly in Japan’s case – the ability to acquire them.

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The alternative is global competitions and our elite teams being based in the Northern Hemisphere for months at a time and I just don’t see that flying.

We have a live comp on our hands here this year. We have upsets and good rugby and a building level of interest that will only be enhanced by the end of the Test cricket summer.

But we also have the potential to be better still and to broaden our geographical boundaries by reintroducing nations with a history in Super Rugby and not limiting Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua to token inclusion.

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