News24

'Future hangs on last S14'

2010-02-08 08:22

Wellington - Southern hemisphere rugby administrators are looking to this year's Super 14 tournament to provide a much-needed turnaround in television audience share and fan disillusionment.

Complex rules which have produced games dominated by kicking and a schedule padded with matches of little importance have combined to alienate fans, leaving stadiums partly empty and television audiences at record lows.

Though slow to react, administrators have now acknowledged rugby has lost support because of the poor quality of games and are looking to the Super 14 - traditionally played in an entertaining style - to lure back jaded fans.

Super 14 officials are working with referees to address acknowledged "problem areas" in the game - principally the tackled ball, the scrum and offside play at kick returns - which impede continuity, inhibit attack or yield an advantage to defensive teams.

The same officials have added some spice to open the season this weekend - mostly a feast of local derbies. Auckland hosts Wellington, the Brumbies travel to Perth to play the Force and the Cheetahs and Lions play in Bloemfontein, South Africa on Friday.

On Saturday, Crusaders hosts Highlanders at Christchurch, the Reds and Waratahs play their annual grudge match at Brisbane and the Lions play the Stormers in Johannesburg. New Zealand side Chiefs plays the Sharks in Durban, South Africa in the only match not featuring domestic sides.

New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew said at the 2010 tournament launch in Auckland that rugby had to deliver matches of the quality fans expect.

"We sat down at review time last year, referees, coaches, leading players and administrators, and all agreed we needed to put some effort into it," Tew said.

"We weren't providing, either for TV or live fans, the spectacle we have in the past. I think we've certainly made a very serious attempt at responding to feedback and our own observations. Time will tell whether we're effective or not, but it won't be for want of trying."

Tew suggested it was possible deliver a better spectacle without a further, intrusive and potentially confusing revision of rugby's laws.

"There were some games in the 2009 season that were just outstanding played by the same players, with the same referees and the same laws," he said. "There were others that clearly weren't.

"Part of it is attitudinal change, part of it is making sure we get some consistency from the referees and part of it is making sure the feedback to referees, coaches and teams was consistent and immediate."

Much hinges on rugby's ability this season to address its shortcomings and to win back a loyal audience during a period of change. The sport is about to sign another of the broadcasting rights deals which have underpinned professionalism since 1995 and a falling television audience weakens the hand of its negotiators.

"We're not blind to the fact there's been a decline (in support), particularly in New Zealand and Australia," Tew said.

"We haven't got to the point yet where can announce a (new) broadcast deal, but certainly the indicators from the broadcasters are they've still got complete faith in what this can do for their platforms."

ARU chief executive John O'Neill echoed Tew's comments, saying the expansion of the tournament to 15 teams in 2011 made 2010 a critical year for the competition.

The addition of a Melbourne-based team next year will greatly increase the number of matches played in the Super 15 at a time when spectators are turning away, deterred not only by the quality but the number of games.

"2010 is a critical year to show that we've turned the corner," O'Neill said.

"So if we want to go into a brave new world in 2011, 2010's the year when the foundations will be laid."

South Africa's Bulls will defend their Super 14 title this season but South African rugby faces the challenge of retaining public attention as the nation builds towards the football World Cup finals in June.

Rugby has retained strong popularity in South Africa while flagging in New Zealand and Australia, but holding its place in public prominence in the World Cup year will be difficult.

Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have all qualified for the World Cup finals and that will provide a showcase for football which further challenges rugby's grip on its southern hemisphere audience.

AP

Comments
  • softserve - 2010-02-08 08:51

    Tough break for the Lions as according to this article they play the Cheetahs in Bloem on Friday night and then the Stormers the next day in Jhb! Seriously now, haven't the administrators just made it worse and completely contradicted themselves by adding in another team for next year? And in so doing, cutting into the June tours, 3 nations and Currie Cup. Maybe they should drop it back to 12 teams and the last placed sides of each country get relegated each year, regardless of where they finish on the log. - Just a thought , be gentle.

  • gerhard - 2010-02-08 09:02

    So the Lions play both the Cheetahs in Bloem and Stormers in JHB? Poor Bulls, they no longer play!!!

  • ed - 2010-02-08 09:05

    Both the S14 and Tri-nations have become boring and tedious: Useless and biased refereeing, too much intereference by so-called experts, greed on the part of the media, and, quite simply, just too much rugby between these 3 nations preventing variety and competition with other nations. Perhaps it may be an idea to have these leagues alternate every 2 years - but of course this will never happen.

  • wdw - 2010-02-08 09:14

    Simplify the rules so cocky referees are not the most important on the field any more, and easier for players to play rugby as it was to be 100 years ago ! Then i will start watching union again

  • Steve - 2010-02-08 09:16

    I'm glad you mentioned "consistency from the refs", as this to me is the root cause especially in alienating RSA fans. And as you are well aware it extends to the contentious disciplinary panels dishing out lop-sidded judgements. The irony is that the fans and players themselves are the only parties NOT causing this situation. Shame on you refs (not all) and administrators. It may even be to late to turn this trend.

  • Minki de Melker - 2010-02-08 09:16

    There is way too much rugby on TV. That is the problem. If I miss half the games on TV, I still see a lot of rugby......

  • Ruggers Rocks - 2010-02-08 09:22

    The only resaon support in New Zealand and Australia is diminishing is that they are rubbish and can't beat us. If the Bulls, the Sharks, the Cheetah's and Province were to back out then the Aussies and New Zealanders would be keen to watch again because they might actually have a chance of winning - although Boland might also end up destroying them

  • TheGreaterGood - 2010-02-08 09:26

    And the award for the best popularity destroying brand of rugby goes to...........our mighty Bulls. Well Done. But hey as long as your winning, Kick, chase, tackle, drive. Kick, chase, tackle, drive. Kick, chase, tackle, drive. Kick, chase, tackle, drive. Lets hope the Bulls do not do well this year and rugby can start regaining its popularity in Australasia.

  • Brandon - 2010-02-08 09:27

    Rugby will not suffer one iota from the Soccer World Cup. That's a dof statement to make. While the SWC is a big deal, S14 will be over by the time it kicks off. . . and even if it wasn't, I highly doubt Rugby's support base would be that distracted by the round ball game.

  • The Voice of Reason - 2010-02-08 09:37

    You want to know how to draw more people to Super Rugby, I say go with the American approach, more teams, fewer games. Have the 14 current ones Melbourne, PE, 2 Argentinian teams, and 2 Pacific Island teams. Draw them into 4 pools of 5 play each team in a pool twice, that's 8 games. Top 2 from each pool then play quarter finals, followed by semis, and a final. That's a 12 or 13 week tournement, with 20 team, so you have a huge audience. The number of games is reduced, to stop 'dead' games. Pools get redrawn every year based on performance. This format also allows for a Currie Cup.

  • TheGreaterGood - 2010-02-08 09:38

    And the award for the best popularity destroying brand of rugby goes to...........our mighty Bulls. Well Done. But hey as long as your winning, Kick, chase, tackle, drive. Kick, chase, tackle, drive. Kick, chase, tackle, drive. Kick, chase, tackle, drive. Lets hope the Bulls do not do well this year and rugby can start regaining its popularity in Australasia.

  • TonyD - 2010-02-08 09:39

    Just for starters, it would be great if our esteemed colleague who wrote the article got his facts right (I see the Lions are playing twice this weekend) then we'd know what's going on, and we could schedule our viewing accordingly!!!!!

  • TheGreaterGood - 2010-02-08 09:42

    And the award for the best popularity destroying brand of rugby goes to...........our mighty Bulls. Well Done. But hey as long as your winning, Kick, chase, tackle, drive. Kick, chase, tackle, drive. Kick, chase, tackle, drive. Kick, chase, tackle, drive. Lets hope the Bulls do not do well this year and rugby can start regaining its popularity in Australasia.

  • The Voice of Reason - 2010-02-08 09:47

    You want to know how to draw more people to Super Rugby, I say go with the American approach, more teams, fewer games. Have the 14 current ones Melbourne, PE, 2 Argentinian teams, and 2 Pacific Island teams. Draw them into 4 pools of 5 play each team in a pool twice, that's 8 games. Top 2 from each pool then play quarter finals, followed by semis, and a final. That's a 12 or 13 week tournement, with 20 team, so you have a huge audience. The number of games is reduced, to stop 'dead' games. Pools get redrawn every year based on performance. This format also allows for a Currie Cup.

  • Soutie - 2010-02-08 09:49

    @Softserve. I like the idea of less teams with a promotion/relegation system.

  • @TheGreaterGood - 2010-02-08 09:57

    Hey Numb nuts.....How many tries were scored in last year's final again? Go put your idiotic statements on the bathroom stall of the closest gas station right above the glory hole!!!! Don't go all sour.....tries were scored and it was an exciting game!

  • Marius - 2010-02-08 09:57

    I believe that the constant changing of rules is part of the problem. Now again they are likely to try and address the problem with rule changes. How can you have a sport where the referees, players and fans constantly have to adjust to new rules. When last has there been a major rule change in soccer. It must have been the late 80s or early 90s. Simplify the rules of rugby and then leave them alone.

  • Flaws - 2010-02-08 10:10

    Personally I think there are a few flaws in the current system. Fisrtly, they should have stayed with 12 teams. The S14 is just too big - too long, too much rugby for one tournament. Secondly, it does not make sence to watch the games when the rev on the field call all the shots even if he make many mistakes and often the wrong teams keep win the matches. A TV ref should be able to override wrong discisions in a matter of seconds, replay the first incident on a BIG SCREEN while the game carries on, so that everybody can see why he made the call. At the end of the day, the most important issue at hand is that the right team should win the match.

  • Pieter (Bulle Bo) - 2010-02-08 10:11

    @TheGreaterGood: U are suffering form disillusion, do the score of 61-17 ring a bell in the Super 14 final. Great running rugby, many of the tries was from near the 50 m line. Fact is rugby might start losing support because of poor sour supporters like u who cannot handle defeat.

  • Steadfast - 2010-02-08 10:25

    I love rugby and cannot wait for S14 to begin. Many comments above means changing something in the game again. I dont think it is the games as much as other factors. I cannot afford to go up the road to Ellis Park with family to watch the games. Also, like Ellis Park I would not go due to parking problems and areas stadium is in. Thry getting a ticket for Stormers, Bulls, Sharks home games. The administrators are milking the public, prices of tickets, cool drinks, beer and food are so high it is criminal. So we all get together in someone's house (take turns) and watch certain games. We will easily watch 4 odd games on a week end. Maybe one should also look at the time of the year when the tournament is on - it is still summer in SA and many do other things in summer. Leave rugby a winter sport when there is not much else to do.

  • JOHN - 2010-02-08 11:22

    @GreaterGood 1st poit... You are a mupet. Suport losing team much? Go expat yourself to the after life or stick to your ozzy web sites hmkay pumpkin. 2nd point... No SWC will take away the glory of the S14. 3rd point. Reason for this fuss is cos OZ an NZ cant winn comps any more! They are retarded and cry foul if they cant winn. I say bring in more spice like argintna or make a sout vs a north hem comp. Fans in SA will always suport and will never fade!!!

  • vernon - 2010-02-08 12:27

    I think that the quality of the refs is a major issue with the s14. How many times over the years have we sat shouting the ods. People vote with their eyes. If I don't like what I see I change the channel. I love rugby why should I be left frustrated after watching a game I love on a Saturday afternoon because some official is not doing his job correctly.

  • Alan Ingram SA - 2010-02-08 12:31

    Next years Super 15 is going to be even more of a 'flop' It is time to throw Super Rugby out it has become boring ! same oh same oh ! The only SA team worth its meat are the Bulls, the Aus and NZ refs cheat like there is no tomorrow !

  • Leg over Wicket - 2010-02-08 13:09

    Rugby: A professional Sport administrated by a bunch of selfcentered,supper egoed amatures.Nobody wants to watch Rugby,because of the wistlehappy mamparras who makes more and more new rules. Get back to the basics of the sport and you will fill the staduims again.

  • Pieter (I love rugby) - 2010-02-08 13:48

    My family lives for rugby, we used to go to the stadium for every game. However, tickets and entertaining the kids at the stadium with cooldrinks and food just became to expensive. R15,00 a 500 ml coke etc... Then we also had to cope with loosing spectators (the sharks and cheetahs are the worst) starting to swear and bad behavour and despite smoking being banned, blowing their smoke in the kids and our faces. Then we also have car watchers charging a fortune for normal public parking space, if u don't pay up u find scratches on your vehicle. Now we invested in a HD PVR and LCD screen. We watch and re-watch the games and record our games for repeated viewing. U just see so much more detail on the TV in clarity and can even rewind or slow motion replay moves again. Much more peace and freedom and safety at home.

  • Rebel - 2010-02-08 14:14

    Its not the refs or the players, but the administrators. Too much greed = too much rugby = poor support either at the stadium or in front of the telly. I used to love getting up at 3 in the morning to watch SA vs All Blacks as it was one of only three or four test matches for the year . Now if I miss a test match, which happens often, I dont care, they will be playing again next weekend. There is also too much pressure on players to win at all costs which leads to cheating or at least finding every conceivable way of bending the rules to their advantage and thereby spoiling the game. Then they add a new rule to prevent the previous rule being bent and the cycle continues. Sad state of affairs!

  • Waratah! - 2010-02-08 14:52

    Here the public watch league and not union. More youngsters are playing league. This has got worse as this kicking game has taken over. The style played by the Bulls and now adopted by so many other teams. It has damaged the game here and that is a fact. The rules need to be changed to bring back running rugby. What those rules are, I don't know.

  • bok4life - 2010-02-08 15:53

    "greatergood" you are a clown and "waratah!" get off the bandwagon you retard! 61 - 17 i highly doubt Morne Steyn kicked all 71 points over so get over yourselfs ok. And just by the way you misinformed half wits your "great autralasian" teams tried this tactic but couldnt pull it off and got pumped even further! cos danny boy and richie cant hack it no more! Eish!! oh and for any other clowns that think SA play kicking rugby here is something to INFORM you from the Super 14 Final 2009: The superb Bulls destroyed the Chiefs in the final of the 2009 Super 14. Blue Bulls 61 Tries: Fourie du Preez (2), Bryan Habana (2), Victor Matfield, Wynand Olivier, Pierre Spies, Danie Rossouw. Conversions: Morné Steyn (5), Burton Francis. Penalties: Morné Steyn (2). Drop goal: Morné Steyn. Chiefs 17 Tries: Lelia Masaga, Mils Muliaina. Conversions: Stephen Donald (2). Penalty: Stephen Donald. Man of the Match: Wynand Olivier.

  • i think - 2010-02-09 11:05

    i thought about a little, don't no if it will work: When a player is tackled, only three of his team mates must be allowed at the breakdown and only three of the tackler's team mates can join. This means only eight players will compete for the ball on the ground, making it easier for the ref to see what is going on. Rucking can be brought back.At this stage i havnt given much thought to what the other 4 forwards will do while their team mates are fighting for the ball on the ground. Nowadays players like Matfield are already hanging around in the backline so it wouldn't be such a big adjustment.what do you think?

  • i think - 2010-02-09 11:06

    i thought about a little, don't no if it will work: When a player is tackled, only three of his team mates must be allowed at the breakdown and only three of the tackler's team mates can join. This means only eight players will compete for the ball on the ground, making it easier for the ref to see what is going on. Rucking can be brought back.At this stage i havnt given much thought to what the other 4 forwards will do while their team mates are fighting for the ball on the ground. Nowadays players like Matfield are already hanging around in the backline so it wouldn't be such a big adjustment.what do you think?

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