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Henry : Expansion has diluted Super Rugby


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Former All Black coach Graham Henry has said that the latest expansion of Super Rugby from 15 to 18 teams has diluted the quality.

Super Rugby expanded this year and included a team from Argentina, Japan and a sixth team from South Africa.

While some of the South African and Australian teams are struggling to find the form they have enjoyed historically the New Zealand teams are almost in a different league.

“New Zealand sides are a cut above the others, which is disappointing really because you need the other sides strong to have a good competition and increase the interest,” Henry told Radio Sport.

Henry, who coached the All Blacks to a World Cup title in 2011 and also coached the Auckland Blues to two Super Rugby titles, said that there is not enough depth support all the franchises.

“The policy of SANZAAR is to have a global game and they’ve got the game in Japan and they’ve got the game in Argentina, some of the games are in Singapore, so they they’ve fulfilled that objective but in doing that the quality has decreased,” he told AFP.

New Zealand Rugby Boss Steve Tew has admitted that the current model is not perfect but says that it has set up a platform on which they can build and improve the product.

Tew said that if the SANZAAR countries want to keep their players they need to continue expanding Super Rugby as it brings in the money that keeps the game alive.

Northern Hemisphere clubs are in the process of signing new broadcast deals that will fill their accounts with more money to buy players and Tew says if SANZAAR does nothing they will go bust.

“Anyone who thinks that we can survive playing ourselves has done no analysis on where the money comes from,” Tew told the Sunday Star Times.

“The reality is our players and coaches are the best in the world and people want them, and they all have a lot more money than we have anyway, without going backwards.

“We either grow the game and we’re part of the growth, and we try to lead it and have some ability to control it, or we sit back and we’ll get swamped.”

Tew admitted that it is hard to sell a tournament where some of the best teams don’t occupy the top positions, as is happening in Super Rugby right now, but warns the alternative isn’t worth contemplating.

“Long-term if the foundations are laid we may be able to expand the game in a way that’s more sensible from a travel, player workload, cost and time zone point of view, but that’s going to take some time.

“But if people want to go back to New Zealand teams just playing each other, then we’ll have a really, really good domestic competition, but it will be all over in about two years because there will be no-one playing. They will all be in Europe.”

Meanwhile Hurricanes assistant coach John Plumtree who has also coached the Sharks says that fans to be patient and points out that Super Rugby could not be run any other way and in time, standards will improve across the board.

“The people in South Africa and the people in Australia want to see big games, finals games in those countries, in a competition like this, so I can’t see that changing,” he said.

“There’s no way there’s going to be two or three quarter-finals in New Zealand and a couple of semis. It won’t happen. There’s more to it than that. You have to be patient.”

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  1. Johann Fenske

    16th May 2016 at 10:25 am

    “New Zealand sides are a cut above others…” Thats pushing it Mr Henry!

  2. BK

    16th May 2016 at 3:21 pm

    Very good point Graham Henry!
    No personal offence to the inclusion of the Sunwolves, Jaguares and the Kings, but I think including them in the Super Rugby is one of the biggest mistakes the SANZAR has made!
    Their class of rugby is just far below standards of the other 15 teams.

    Thanks to that, this year’s Super Rugby season is turning out to be just far too dominant by the NZ teams while SA teams seem to be doing good but still one level below the Kiwis.
    And the Aussie teams seem to be struggling far too much.

    I strongly believe that the Super Rugby should go back to the previous 15-team competition or even a 14-team comp just like it used to between 2006 and 2010.
    That way, the competition will become much more balanced and closer to bring more interest.

  3. JJ

    17th May 2016 at 2:40 am

    I’m guessing Graham didn’t see the Blues get their shiny behinds handed to them by the Lions. If anything the travelling is wrecking havoc for all teams and the new teams as an away prospect can sometimes present a certain bonus-point but not always. Whilst I think the Kings are brilliant for developing EP rugby I think they will need to drop away. Their union simply isn’t at the level it needs to be to compete in Super Rugby in the long-term.

    On the other side of the coin the Jaguares are going to become a frightening prospect in a few years and the Sunwolves have done themselves proud during their first year baptism of fire. The biggest issue I can see is the travel and whether it is sustainable.

  4. Dave

    17th May 2016 at 9:05 am

    Whilst I agree the level of the newcomers is not up to scratch. I think we need the global attraction and inclusion of Japan and Argentina, they will improve with time, this is first year and lessons are being learnt. It will also benefit NZ players also. Up and coming players have greater chance for exposure either, against the new teams or with them!
    Give it time. BTW lets wait and see who actually peaks in the finals!!
    (Hopefully not Aussies…anyone else is fine! ;))

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