Tank Lanning

Time to shake things up a bit

2016-09-15 08:08
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
I am not exactly sure how they are going to get it right, but I like the noises coming from new World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont and vice-chairman Agustin Pichot with regard to a new, more aligned, rugby calendar.

Said to take effect after the 2019 World Cup in Japan, it seems the new schedule will not affect the Six Nations, which was the initial target, instead offering fewer Tests, with June tours set to be scrapped for at least one of the four years between World Cups.

Would that see rugby head in the same direction as soccer, with Test matches becoming secondary to the money generating club fixtures? That really would be a shame.

But I do not see that necessarily being the case.
As it stands, the real naughty boys in this space, France, have made the call to dock their elite clubs log points if they fail to field at least 60% French-reared players per game. Also, following their disastrous showing in last year’s World Cup, clubs will have to limit the number of non-French qualified players in their 35-man squads to just 16.

So France are now putting their national side first.

And in playing so many Tests currently, could that in itself be devaluing the product? Playing fewer, with more variety, perhaps even throwing in the odd full blooded old fashioned tour, may well increase their value. What you can’t have, you want more of...

The thing that I like most about the proposed calendar, though, is the idea of Super Rugby starting a little later in the season. The aim being to have less of an overlap between internationals and domestic tournaments. Thankfully - that break in Super Rugby for the June Internationals is unpleasant.

What about going even further, though, and starting Super Rugby even later so we can play the Currie Cup before it?

Or even further - how about a return to the Super 12 or 14, with that year’s Currie Cup semi-finalists then also qualifying for Super Rugby?

As it stands, the Currie Cup is becoming more irrelevant by the second, in desperate need of a shot in the arm. But given that teams are not full strength due to the Bok call-ups, it would be unfair to make it a Super Rugby qualifier in its current guise. Play it up front in the season and that all changes...

How about something like this:

Late February - April: Currie Cup (9 teams, single round)
May/June: Internationals (not always incoming, and not always a Northern Hemisphere team)
June - September: Super 12 or 14 (involving the 4 Currie Cup semi-finalists)
October: Rugby Championship (4 teams, single round)
November: End of Year tour

Now that would add a little curry to the Currie Cup! And I reckon it would be quite fun to see our representation in Super Rugby change from year to year.

Also, by removing all North v South restrictions on the May/June internationals, it allows for the All Blacks to come here, or the Boks there, for a full blooded three-Test tour in between. Now that is proper rugby!

In the year after World Cups, when the May/June internationals are not played, Super Rugby could be expanded to include either an extra team from SA, Australia and New Zealand, or more excitingly, two or three guest teams from the likes of America and/or Europe.

Club rugby qualification rounds could be played from March to June, with the Varsity and Gold Cups then played at the same time as Super Rugby. And with no Vodacom or Currie Cup rugby taking place, players not playing Super Rugby would then be available to play in our premier club rugby tournaments.

Looks like fun. Probably wouldn’t generate enough money, though. But I think the sport needs eyeballs again, before it can chase cash.

Tank Lanning is a former Western Province prop 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.

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