“The Kings are shaping as on-field peasants this season” screamed some Aussie website!
And while it may be true, and a tad embarrassing for all us rugby loving South Africans, let’s just remember from whence it comes.
Those poor buggers down under have had the Rebels (or the Rabble as I like to call them on Twitter) and Force competing for that title for years now. It’s no wonder they are doing the Happy Dance and firing off salvos before a whistle has even been blown.
And while it may not be so PC to say it here in SA, across in Australia it’s a whole lot more PC to take a dig at the men from PE than it is to take on the Japanese Sunwolves, who, let’s be honest, have every chance of snatching the on-field peasant title this year.
It’s one of the plethora of reasons why this tournament should be the Super 12.
But this is actually not another cheap dig at the 18-team structure making its way to our shores in just over a week. In fact, I am actually quite looking forward to it. At least it’s different!
Yes, it has some fundamental flaws, with the biggie being the fact that the South African conferences do not play both the Australian and New Zealand sides. But which big tournament that uses any form of pool system does see each side playing each other in the league stages?
And let’s remember that us South Africans are to blame for this fiasco. We demanded a sixth side because we could not come up with a system to deliver five sides. And we demanded less travel at the behest (or demand, depending on who is telling the story) of players.
So given that, what SARU has achieved through eventually making use of our monstrous TV numbers, is actually quite miraculous.
We get three guaranteed quarter final spots from eight teams - which might seem a little unfair when compared to the five spots the Australasians get from 10 teams - but we have the Kings, Sunwolves and Jaguares in our conference. And while the men from Argentina may eventually get it right, they are going to struggle in this ultra-marathon of rugby initially. The Cheetahs may be everyone’s second favourite team, but that does not win you log points.
So in effect, the Lions, Bulls, Sharks and Stormers are fighting it out for three quarter final spots, two of which will be played at home!
Do you also smell a winner chicken dinner?
It’s those nine-game weekends that are going to be the death of me, and the primary reason that I think this tournament will chase people away from the game. Yes you start eating an elephant by taking the first bite, but that is still some serious chewing that you need to get through. And it requires people to actually want to take that first bite.
If not allowed to head back to the dreamy days of Super 12, I would have the SA and Australasian conferences as separate mini tournaments played at the same time, which then generate eight sides to play in the Super 8, which could then be league based. If one cannot cross-populate properly in the league, then don’t try.
But as said, at least it’s different, and it’s not nearly as complex as people are making it out to be. Check out our Super Rugby for Dummies if you disagree. Bring it on!
Tank Lanning is a former Western Province prop, current editor of the all new www.vodacomrugby.co.zawebsite that allows you to rate the SA players, and vociferous Tweeter from @frontrowgrunt. Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.