Super 14 Rugby

New Zealand coaches not happy with play-off decision


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New Zealand’s Super 14 coaches have expressed their disappointment in SANZAR’s decision to drop the Super 14 playoffs expansion from four to six team in 2009.

It was widely expected that the tournament’s play offs would be expanded from four to six teams but when agreement could not be reached with South Africa over what format the play offs would take so the idea was dropped.

Clearly New Zealand’s coaches put the blame on South Africa as they were insisting that the top two teams from each country qualify regardless of where they finish on the table.

They way South Africa wanted it was that their top team would have been given a home play off even if they were to finish in a low as ninth place (theoretically).

New Zealand and Australia believed that the top six teams should qualify for the finals home advantage being decided by finishing order.

South Africa’s call for Geographic qualification was the first part of a proposed change to a conference system for 2010 and beyond that will then see top finishers in each conference earn home playoff matches.

By dropping the six team play off the New Zealand coaches have been angered as they believe the competition is worse off for not using the new format.

“It’s disappointing,” Blues coach Pat Lam told Rugbyheaven.

“We understand there needs to be agreement across the three boards, but we certainly felt expansion to a top six would have been great.

“But it’s not happening so we’ve got to get on with it and ensure we’re in that top four.”

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder will take charge of a team that has pretty much mastered the four team play off format but even he admitted that the expanded format had some appeal.

Chiefs coach Ian Foster says the competition is the worse for the decision to keep the old format.

“I felt it would have added something to it and I’ve always been a believer that in Super 14 there are too many good teams to just go down to four,” Foster said.

Highlanders coach Glenn Moore agreed with Foster.

“It would have been good for the competition,” he said, noting the increase from 12 to 14 teams had not seen the finals expanded.

“A top six would have allowed teams to stay alive longer.”

Hurricanes coach Colin Cooper had his team knocked out in the semis this year also felt that a six-team finals format would have been fairer.

“I’m disappointed, most coaches would be, but it didn’t work out that way,” he said.

“The only advantage is that we don’t have to start earlier now.”

The six team format would have brought the tournament a week forward so now the tournament starts in the middle of February.

Ironically South Africa wanted the Global ELVs to be adopted for the Super 14 as they will use them in the British and Irish Lions tour.

Australia and New Zealand wanted the current trial which includes free-kicks for most continue but Moore and Cooper felt that it would have been better to adopt the Global ELVs.

“The quicker we get united the better for the game,” said Cooper, echoing fairly universal sentiments in the game.

Lam said he felt whichever ELVs were used essentially came down to referee interpretations to make them work.

“We saw during the Air NZ Cup a huge emphasis on the defensive team, which was different from the Super 14 where it was on the attacking team. It’s important refs interpret that well, and allow teams to have a go and play some football, and not the kick-a-thons we have seen.

“When we played the All Blacks with the Baabaas and used the global ones without free-kicks that actually took the pressure off the ref who allowed the contest to happen at the breakdown.

“If refs rule that right, allow a chance for a contest and allow the attacking team to clear off defenders at the breakdown, then we’ll see a lot more flowing rugby.”

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