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Super Rugby under fire for complicated format


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Too big, too complicated and the games aren’t great either — the ever-expanding Super Rugby competition is coming under heavy fire after spreading to two new continents this season.

The ambitious tournament started in the 1980s as a six-team amateur affair known as the South Pacific Championship before evolving into the 18-club behemoth which today straddles 16 time zones.

The entry of teams from Argentina and Japan may be good for broadcast revenues, and it could point the way ahead as rugby eyes expansion into new markets.

But quality and attendances have dipped, and many have been left bemused by an unfathomable four-conference system which seems to disadvantage the strongest country, New Zealand.

Eye-watering results like the 92-17 humiliation suffered by Japanese newcomers the Sunwolves against the Cheetahs, and the Jaguares’ 73-27 win over fellow debutants the Southern Kings, haven’t helped.

Former Australia coach Eddie Jones, who is now at the helm of England, spoke for many when he said: “I watch most of the games but some of the games put me to sleep.

“I don’t think the standard’s great this year. Having 18 teams in the competition, it’s really dropped the standards.”

The Sunwolves, Jaguares and Kings have won a total of just four of their 30 games and the Australian conference has been denigrated by home pundits as “mediocre”.

Added to that is a punishing travel schedule which has left the Sunwolves, for instance, playing home games not just in Tokyo but also in Singapore, as well as touring South Africa.

New Zealand fans are annoyed that despite occupying the top four of the top five places on the overall points tally, they are demoted below other teams when conference weighting is factored in.

And many Australian supporters believe their talent pool is spread too thin as their five teams struggle to make an impact.

“For all the chest pounding about the benefits of international expansion, the jury is very much out over whether this awkward format really works, especially in Australia,” columnist Robert Craddock wrote in The Australian.

Prominent New Zealand rugby columnist Phil Gifford said Super Rugby “has now been diluted and complicated”.

“New Zealand players smash each other to bits while the two South African-dominated conference teams, for example, can enjoy the luxury of cruising ahead of mediocre teams,” he said.

It appears they are stuck with the current system for another season at least, although governing body SANZAAR is studying more changes — and quite possibly, further expansion — for 2018.

Fairfax New Zealand’s reported this week that SANZAAR has hired a consultancy firm and over the next six months will map out a 10-year strategic vision.

It said expressions of interest for potential new teams would then be sought, with possible bids from South America, North America, the Pacific, Europe and other parts of Asia.

“You’ve got to be open-minded when you go into a process,” SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos was quoted as saying.

“Is it a continual expansion? Is it an expansion in two conferences? Is it a reduction and creating a two-tier system? There’s a whole lot of different permutations one has to consider as you go through a process like this if you want to get the best result.

“Certain countries may reduce and some may retain or expand.”

He added that “2018 for me is more achievable should we look to expand”.

“To try put a new team up in 2017 you’re not giving them enough time to prepare,” he said.

Other participants are also looking at the positives — especially the Sunwolves and Argentina’s Jaguares, who are seizing their chance at what has been regarded as rugby’s premier club competition.

“There were expectations of our team at the start and we’ve already exceeded those,” said coach Mark Hammett, who recovered from the 92-17 mauling to register their first win.

“We set the goal of a win so it was nice to do that against the Jaguares recently.

“You’re talking about a team who were expected to lose every game. And while we had one very bad blowout, there were also three or four games where we came just a few points away from winning.”

Source : AFP

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  1. Maurice

    20th May 2016 at 8:26 am

    As I commented in a previous article:

    It should be really simple.
    A 2 tear system where everybody plays everyone else within a tear home and away. No cross tear games. 10 teams in top tear, 8 in the 2nd tear with space for 2 more if they really want to expand again. No semi finals straight to final with top 2 teams. That equals at least 18 games a season for each team plus a possible 1 more.
    No guaranteeing any country a spot in playoffs or a certain amount of teams in the top tear. Straight forward promotion and relegation of bottom 2-4 teams of tear 1 and top 2-4 teams of tear 2.
    Unfortunately the SA and Aussie unions won’t want this because the top tear will consist of 5 Kiwi teams and the SA and Aussies (and maybe the Argies) bouncing between tears each season.

    Read more:

  2. Andre de Waal

    20th May 2016 at 9:50 am

    You can add as many teams as you want, provided you have different divisions like the EPL. Then at the end of each season the bottom teams from the “Premier” division play promotion/relegation matches between the “Championship” division. My ideal scenario would be having 3 divisions of 8 teams each, where everyone plays each other home and away in their own division. That would mean 6 new teams (Pacific Islands, Singapore, USA, Canada, Hong Kong, NEwhere). This would keep the competition interesting adding bigger markets (which is what SANZAR want) when all teams have something to play for and maintain quality vs quality which is what the fans actually want

  3. Clive

    20th May 2016 at 10:32 am

    The new concept is just boring beyond belief and I have stopped watching TV broadcast games. The teams spend more time travelling that they do on the rugby field! I would welcome if the entire concept was scrapped.

  4. h8inh8ers

    20th May 2016 at 11:32 am

    Man maybe sum games are boring..but there have been some great ones too..there are always winners n loser but thats sport…i still support the blues all day every day…win or lose if they play good rugby im in…

  5. marcel

    20th May 2016 at 6:54 pm

    I think is logic all the process. Can’t posible all teams win all matches.

  6. Maximiliano

    20th May 2016 at 10:46 pm

    The real problem is not the championship system. Super Rugby game “rules” or “referee styles” have changed the spirit of rugby. Scrums with partial balls, rucks without disputes, etc, etc. It´s like a fantasy rugby where only matters speed. Speed is not always fun. Fun is watch purity in every aspect of game (Passing, kicking and Lineouts, scrums, rucks, mouls)
    Teams like Jaguares and the Japanese one need some years of competition to play well against the big ones. (NZ-SA-A). And I´m sure the will be better. But, to enjoy rugby, SANZAAR don´t need to change teams or divisions. They need to combine that speed with the old basics. (sorry for my english, I know it´s not good enough).

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