Does being on top of the log in your conference really means anything for a side? writes Jacques Nortier.
The new format of Super Rugby that SANZAAR dished up for us where none of teams will play all of the other teams splitting it into a two-year cycle. Let us not fool ourselves, the New Zealand teams have been the best in this competition for the last 8 or so years and from the other countries we only have one maybe two that really contested for the title at the end.
It is clear that teams not playing New Zealand teams in the year have an easy run in the pool stages of the competition and a real possibility in making the play-offs.
The Australian teams have almost never produced more than one real quality team in the competition at most they had two. The same can be said on South African teams.
With the poor Sunwolves and a Jaguares team that have not got to grips with the intensity of Super Rugby we are almost certain that the three teams from the two African conferences will be from South Africa.
With the African 1 group only playing the other African 2 group and Aussie teams this year, one can already assume that the two top teams in this group, the Stormers and the Bulls will make the playoffs unless something really dramatic happens.
That will then see the two quality teams in the Lions and the Sharks to fight it out for the last spot in the African 2 group.
Now how does this structure ensure the best teams in the playoffs? Simple answer is, it does not…
The Stormers sits nicely with 23 point after 6 games with one lost against the Sharks at home. If you looked at their games up to now the only real one that stand out as a great performance was the Brumbies win at home a few weeks ago.
The Stormers have already played the Jaguares away and only have the Sunwolves, Rebels and Force still to play outside South Africa. None of these teams are really going to be a threat although the Rebels have been better this year so far.
If one takes the Sharks and Lions, then the difficult scale goes into over draft.
The Sharks had already the Blues this weekend away, then they have the Highlanders next week away followed by the Chiefs also away and then the Hurricanes at home after coming back from New Zealand ending a mad few weeks with traveling to the Jaguares the following week away.
At the end it shows how generic the Super Rugby circus has become with adding three more teams to this once quality competition.
Will we have the best teams in the play offs? Not really and that will leave supporters getting frustrated again which is not good for a competition. Super Rugby has seen a decline not just in viewership but also a dramatic decline in people through the gates at stadiums.
Like any sport the existence depend on the supporters that can be involved in the teams and what sponsors look for to spend money in the game. Personally I believe that SANZAAR have lost the plot in this and that we will see an even more downward spiral in quality and support for it.
So how can it be fixed?
The only way I can personally see this ever expanding format to exist in the modern game, is to have a premiere league with a second tier league. A promotion relegation system can then be created to give the second tier league the opportunity to get into the premiere league after each season.
The Europeans have done this perfectly for me and their system works keeping the best teams playing each other and take out these mismatches of score lines that we saw this year in Super Rugby.
Nobody can convince me that a score of 93-17 does any good for the competition nor the players in such a match on both sides
When SANZAAR add teams like the Kings, Sunwolves and Jaguares, let them start in a second tier league so that they can have competitive games not just to build and get into the demands of Super Rugby but also to be a spectacle for the spectators.
If you have a Super 9 or 10 for the top teams in each country from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand you can then put the other teams in these countries with the likes of the Jaguares and the Sunwolves in the second league.
This will be competitive and a system that will see the best teams playing each other with the other teams develop against teams at their standards. This will also ensure better development of players and better opportunities for sponsors.
The most important aspect of this all will be it will surely bring back the crowds to the stadiums seeing better quality matchups every week taking away these ridiculous score lines which means nothing for anybody.