Bosses from the Crusaders and the Hurricanes will both push for changes to the Super Rugby format next week at a Sanzaar meeting in Sydney.
Super Rugby administrators Sanzaar will host the CEO’s and head coaches from all 18 Super Rugby teams in Sydney where the current format will be reviewed.
Sanzaar’s Super18 format has been hugely unpopular with the fans who have turned away in their millions on TV and in the stadiums.
Attendances at matches have been dropping for the last decade but the absence of quality and abundance of matches this season has accelerated the decline.
At least two of the 18 teams have had to have financial bailouts by their national unions and more could follow as the interest in Super Rugby continues it’s decline.
The organising body have appointed consultancy firm Accenture who according to reports have put forward scenarios of further expansion as well as a reduction in teams.
Former Sanzar and NZRugby boss David Moffett says that the organisers have chased quantity over quality which has driven fans away. Like countless fans Moffett has also slammed Sanzaar confusing format.
This season’s Crusaders head coach Todd Blackadder also slammed the format which saw teams with fewer points earned through the season hosting teams that had earned more points through the season.
Sanzaar tried to defend the format in the run up to the play offs but this achieved little and the calls for a format which sees every team play the other have only grown.
There is also wide support for a fairer play off qualification process where teams that finish with the most points at the end of the regular season are rewarded with a home play off.
Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach will lobby Sanzaar for a friendlier Super Rugby format and a review of the the way the competition’s table is displayed.
“To me the conference system is only about how you qualify for the play-offs,” Riach told Stuff.
“Continuing to show teams throughout the competition in their conference makes little sense to me. Just show the competition table, and the top eight is the top eight.
“It actually only has meaning as a means of calculating the playoffs. So that’s something we will be pushing for.”
Hurricanes chief executive Avan Lee also wants changes to the format in particular his organisation wants change to the play off qualification structure.
Under the current format the Brumbies were awarded home quarterfinals even though did not earn enough points to be in the top four without factoring in the group and conference tables.
The Brumbies finished with 43 points but hosted the Highlanders who finished with 52 points.
Playing at home in a knock out match means much more than home advantage as it also means the team gets the revenue from ticket sales outside of the regular season. It also means less travel for fatigued players at the end of the season.
Lee’s Hurricanes were fortunate enough to play all of their home matches in Wellington but this is unlikely to happen again in 2017 as the Lions are not expected to play the New Zealand teams next season so they should finish on top of the standings if they can maintain their 2016 form into 2017.
“We went to Christchurch [and beat the Crusaders] and to be honest even the staunchest Hurricanes fan wouldn’t have predicted the fact that we’d come away from that weekend as the top qualifier,” Lee told Stuff.
“From my perspective, is there a better way of doing it? Perhaps the top-four teams, regardless of country or conference, should host a quarterfinal? I wonder if that’s a fairer system,” said Lee.
“The New Zealand conference will be exceptionally good next year. I think even better than this year and it’s tough to get out of that conference, let alone even make the final,” he said.
“There’s a lot of very good rugby teams that will keep anyone on their toes and we’re just focused on what we need to do to get ourselves back amongst the top teams.”
Crusaders Boss Riach is also no fan of the current play off system and the way home games are awarded.
“Who gets the right to host those games? Is there a better way than what we saw this year?” Riach said. “Those are areas we are very interested in exploring.”
“In the end we would like to see the competition easily understood, and to have integrity,” Riach noted.
“There was enough comment around the current set-up to see if there is a better way.”
A simple format re jig that we would like to see at SuperXV is for the 18 teams to be divided into three conferences of six teams (for scheduling purposes only).
Teams play five of the six teams in the conferences and alphabetically rotate the sixth team. Everyone plays everyone and home advantage is rotated annually.
This would mean 15 matches (as it is now) with two byes (as it is now) over 17 Rounds.
The teams that finish in the top eight in the standings qualify for the play offs.
Let us know your thoughts below.