With both SANZAR and the European Rugby Cup
(ERC) going through what will definitely be tournament altering discussions, I
believe we have an ideal opportunity to create something brand new.
A global club competition.
People have been crying out for a game
between Toulon and the Chiefs, but as it stands, there simply is no space in
the calendar for it. Now is the perfect opportunity to structure the season so
as not only to allow such a game to take place, but make it a regular fixture.
TV has completely changed how we consume
rugby. Some of it bad given that we now sit with empty stadia every weekend,
but a lot of it good, given that we are now exposed to rugby from all corners
of the globe. Toulon v Saracens now competes to head with the Bulls v Sharks whether
we like it or not, and instead of going to Loftus that day, one might be more
inclined to stock the bar fridge and light a fire while taking in Bakkies Botha
going head to head with Mouritz Botha.
So why not make both games part of the same
A lot easier said than done though, and we
would need to take some key learnings out of the reasons both the Heineken Cup
and Super Rugby are unravelling.
To my mind, these would be:
Argentina and New Zealand are a
very, very long way from both England and South Africa. Any travel included in
a new tournament needs to be fair on all teams.
Part of the reason SA is the
best placed for creating TV numbers is that it can view ALL Super Rugby games
during waking hours - from NZ games at 09:35 through to SA games at 19:10. This
means it can generate good numbers when SA teams tour, and it can produce some
audience even when its own teams aren't playing.
Unfair tournament structure
Rugby, the bastardised pool structure sees teams missing out on playing two teams
based on some random algorithm. In the Heineken Cup, while based on seedings
and tiers, the pool draw is still a random one.
Guaranteed seat at the table
This is the
biggie for the ERC. England and France have strong domestic competitions that
prop up the Heineken Cup. Between the two, they provide 26 sides across the
Heineken Cup and Challenge Cup. Ireland, Scotland and Wales provide 10, fewer
than England alone. And yet, they each hold the same power within the
competition. In Super Rugby, all three countries are guaranteed a seat in the
finals series, meaning that third on the log can have less points than
fifth or sixth.
In Europe, the English and French clubs
have proposed the formation of two new, stronger competitions of 20 teams each,
based on the principles of qualification on merit from each league, the
inclusion of teams from all six existing countries and the expansion into new
markets. So the appetite to engage with us ruffians from the South is clearly
While around the SANZAR table, SARU’s
demand for a sixth franchise sees a proposal being discussed that
involves South Africa splitting from the current Super Rugby tournament to form
its own competition with Europe and Argentina, and the Australian and New
Zealand provinces then forming their own tournament with Asian and Pacific
Super Rugby is unfair in that not all sides
play each other even though it based on a league, unfair in that every region
is guaranteed a quarter finalist no matter the performance, includes too many
teams, is badly structured, is killing the players, and takes too long to
And is thus in desperate need of a complete
overhaul, but the split from Australia and New Zealand is most definitely NOT
the right way to go.
The time has come to don a set of new
glasses and take a look at the global club/franchise/province scene with a
completely different set of eyes. Not a simple task by any stretch of the
imagination, but the appetite is obviously there.
Any new tournament must be based on merit, not
charity, and must give every participating team an equal chance to win it.
Tank is a former Western Province tighthead
prop and editor of the recently launched free monthly digital rugby magazine
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