Super 14 Rugby

Support grows for six team play off format


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Sanzar, the organisers of the Super 14 are said to be looking at a variety of options to enhance their product, including expanding the tournament.

But the most simple improvement appears to be increasing the number of sides in the playoffs from the current four to six.

Most of the push for this has come from Aussie boss John O’Neill gaining support for the idea from the Brumbies management and his new Wallabies coach, Robbie Deans.

They suggest a six-team finals format could be a good short-term option before the current Sanzar deal expires in 2010.

According to the website Stuff, Chiefs coach Ian Foster is a fan, saying the current points table is ample proof of the need to give more reward in terms of involvement in finals football.

While the Crusaders were runaway leaders heading into this ninth weekend of action, just six points separated the next six teams.

“What the last three weeks have shown is how tight this championship is,” Foster told the Sunday Star-Times.

“When you look at the middle of the table now, it supports the argument that this championship needs more than four in the playoffs. There are too many good teams and so many of them miss out.”

The Chiefs may have more cause than any New Zealand side to fight for bigger numbers. They have made the semifinals just once and are yet to appear in a final.

Since making the 2004 semifinals, they have been close to repeating that, finishing sixth, seventh and sixth, with just two points denying them over the last two years.

They were dogged by early season injuries, and their late runs finished agonisingly short.

“I think that the line between some of these teams is pretty tight,” continues Foster.

“Let’s be honest, 13 weeks is not a long championship. Each team is susceptible to losing three or four key players for five or six weeks and that can often affect how they finish at the end. That is probably something that we would like to eliminate.”

Expanding the finals rather than expanding the tournament seems to be a sensible compromise for now.   

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