'Super Rugby not so Super'
Cape Town – The new format of Super Rugby is not so super from the perspective of South African teams.
That is the view of Stormers chief executive and WP Rugby (Pty) Ltd managing director Rob Wagner, who has written to SANZAR about the issue.
And, in an interview with Sport24, Sharks and Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis has raised some points on how South African teams are being disadvantaged.
Wagner is worried about the bye in week one for South African teams in the new format. He also does not believe the new format is necessarily fair, as every team does not play every other one in the league phase. Each one misses out on two opponents.
“We are discovering that it’s a very demanding competition, particularly among the South African franchises with the double headers as there is a greater intensity in the matches between them,” said Wagner.
Du Plessis also believes that leading Australian teams have it much easier than South African and New Zealand sides, writes Christo Buchner.
“That inequality in the tournament definitely needs attention because as things stand now, the playing field is definitely not level for all the teams,” said Du Plessis.
“It’s much easier for a team like the Reds to play the Rebels and Force twice than it is for us to play in tough derby matches every week.
The notion of an easy game simply doesn’t exist when you play against a South African team. It’s even a tough match against the Lions, even if their position on the points table is not good.
“That is why I believe this tournament is not balanced. It’s so much easier for the Australian teams because in their derbies you don’t find the intensity of our derbies and those in New Zealand.”
Du Plessis believes the matter should be addressed so that the tournament can be contested on an equal footing.
“The other problem is that you don’t play against all the teams. You miss one or two of the teams and if everybody does not play everybody then it can’t be a fair tournament to determine the best side.”
Wagner raises the point that a bye in the first round is not really a bye – it simply means that a team starts the tournament a week later than the others.
“It has been reported that a South African team will always have a bye in week one. When you put all that in the pot again – a bye in week one, derbies and the intensity of it, South African teams are at a disadvantage,” said Wagner.
The Sharks also finish their campaign with three tough away derbies against the Cheetahs, Lions and Bulls.
“The competition needs to be re-looked at to see where we can make it fairer so that the playing field can be level for teams from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia,” said Wagner.
“The other thing that concerns me – and I have also gone on record to SANZAR about this – is that I don’t think we have brought anything new to Super Rugby. Compare it to the razzmatazz you find in the Varsity Cup.
“The Super 12 was a breath of fresh air in 1999 because it was different to the domestic tournaments. We have not done anything new except expand.”
As of next year, Super Rugby will also be played over a longer time frame. The teams will now take a break in June to allow for an international window so that Test teams from the Northern Hemisphere can come and tour. Once the Test window is over, Super Rugby will continue.
“Your top players are going to play in Tests and not get rest, while the others will,” said Wagner.
“How will it affect spectators’ interest if Super Rugby stops for a while and then starts again after the Tests?”