In 2016 the Superugby competition is going to be extended further, with a team from Argentina, Japan and another from South Africa joining in the fun. The current conference system is also going to change into something even more incomprehensible.
Rather than explain all the ins and outs of this new incomprehensible conference system, which I’m sure other far more clever people have and will do again at some point, I am going to point out what I think some of the flaws in SANZAR’s thinking in respect of Superugby as a product and advertisement for the game of rugby are.
To start, the season is already too long and there are too many rugby games in the year. Negative impacts on player welfare aside, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. I’m sure they have their financial reasons for doing what they’ve done but I am pretty sure it is going to bite them in the ass one day soon. The realisation will probably come during a game between the Japan Renaissance and the EP Kings, played in front of an empty Nelson Mandela stadium with a TV audience of four people.
I don’t know about most people, but I do know that I would far rather have a shorter competition, with fewer teams in it, where strong teams play against other strong teams every week. I don’t want to see the Argentina Argies getting thrashed by 100 points. I don’t want to see an Australian conference where the player pool is so diluted that even a mediocre Brumbies team can crack the top two because the play against an awful Reds, Rebels and Western Force team twice a season. I want to see the best Australian players play for the traditionally strong rugby sides in the Reds, Waratahs and Brumbies. Leave Melbourne and Perth to Rugby League, ARL and cricket. South Africa doesn’t have the player depth to support six competitive teams either.
To use a cooking analogy, instead of making one great pot of curry with the ingredients you have, you’re forced to make five horribly watery and disappointing pots of coloured water with one or two fatty pieces of meat bobbing around in each, and then expect people to keep coming back to your restaurant. I take quality over quantity any day.
New Zealand will continue to dominate. They can, and do, contribute 5 quality rugby teams to the competition. Any more than that and they too would start to see the effect of the European exodus a lot more clearly.
So then, what would I do if I was SANZAR? I’d reintroduce the Super 14 where the 3 best teams from Australia, the 4 best teams from South Africa, the 5 New Zealand sides and the Japanese and Argentine teams play in a round robin format, with alternating home and away games from one year to the next. If you’re going to introduce new teams, why try crowbar teams from places that aren’t that into rugby in the first place. Instead of Melbourne or Perth where people are more interested in sports that involve tiny shorts and vests, why not a team of home based Samoan players?
I suppose I’m just an average rugby supporter wishing for the best and unfortunately have no say what goes on in the upper echelons of sports administration, but the sad thing is, whatever those guys are doing in their offices of gold and fake teak cladding, it certainly isn’t in the best interests of the game, the players or the fans and in the end will inevitably become something that we no longer recognise as “our Superugby”