Cape Town - With Super Rugby well and truly the centre
of all rugby discussion at the moment, there are many fans who feel the
tournament can be improved dramatically to form a better overall product.
The one aspect that seems to get the most
attention is the contentious format.
this column I attempt to fish out the negatives BUT also provide some possible
solutions as well, in order for Super Rugby to grow beyond all expectation.
I simply do not agree with the format
currently being implemented by SANZAAR. It is way too complex and complicated
for the average rugby fan to comprehend and even die-hard rugby aficionados and
the players themselves struggle to come to grips with it. Even the bonus point
rule confuses people, not to mention the new semi-final rule.
· Too many teams
· Too many groups (4)
· Too many local derbies (that’s
what the Currie Cup is for)
· Certain teams are prevented
from facing certain other teams (certain South African and New Zealand teams
completely avoid each other by default - unfair on the fans, teams and the
· Too many easy games and
guaranteed 5 pointers
· Simply too complicated (wild
cards, quarter-final spot seedings, new semi-final rule) and grouping of teams
don’t really make sense and are unfair (why are the Sunwolves and Jaguares
conveniently placed in the African conferences?)
As you can see from the above, there are way
too many negatives with the new format.
Oh how we miss the good old Super 12 days
where every team plays the other once (with a fair mix of home and away
matches) for 11 games in total and one combined log, with the top 4 advancing
to the semi-finals.
Firstly, there needs to be a reduction in
teams to ensure better quality. My opinion, get rid of the worst South African
team (the Kings) and the worst Australian team (Force or Rebels - take your
pick) - that leaves us with 16 teams.
There could be two separate divisions of 8 teams each - premier and
second-tier, with a promotion and relegation system. Each team in both divisions could play the
other 7 teams both home and away for 14 games, with the top 4 contesting the
semi-finals. The bottom two from the premier division get relegated and the top
two from the second-tier get automatically promoted.
Have two separate groups of 8 teams each under one division. Have an official
draw with a proper seeding system, to ensure a spread and mixture of teams (to
avoid all 5 New Zealand teams from being in the same group for example) and
this draw can be done annually thus ensuring a different mix each year. Top 4
from each group contest the quarter-finals via the traditional method (1st in Group 1 v 4th in Group 2 and so forth) – just like the Rugby World Cup
knock-out rounds are done.
Get rid of the Japanese team as well (they are in the northern hemisphere and Japan
doesn’t even compete in the Rugby Championship), leaving us with 15 teams. Each
team plays every other team for 14 games in total (7 home, 7 away) - top 4
progress to the semi-finals. Seems the best solution of the lot and all teams
get to face each other (or even a system where the top 6 make it through for 2
playoffs, 2 semi-finals and the final).
Solution 4: Keep
the current 18 teams where every team plays every other team (a mix of home and
away games - alternating each year) and
the top 8 make the quarter-finals.
It goes without saying that attendances
have dipped remarkably over the past few years. Attendance figures at stadiums
are on average 145 000 lower than in 2012. The poor format, one-sided
games and expensive ticket prices are mostly to blame.
Simple! As stated above, re-jig the format
(which will also help reduce one-sided contests and give the fans more interest
in proceedings) and reduce ticket prices. Reduction of ticket prices will
actually result in more fans attending and in essence off-set the reduction,
and franchises will actually end up making a profit at the end of the day.
Poor television viewership
Not only has the tournament suffered from
dwindling crowds at the stadiums but also from decreased audience ratings in
terms of television viewership figures. On average, there are roughly 3.8
million fewer viewers than 4 years ago. An alarming stat if you are a sponsor or
The format solutions tabled forth will also
help solve the tv problem (seems the format is the common factor here). Sadly,
pay channel, DSTV, has insane subscription fees and this is the only medium to
catch all the live action. Only a select few can afford it and those in
disadvantaged areas will be unable to catch even the highlights or indeed the
results of games. The SABC should
‘transform’ and bring the action to the public. Sports minister Fikile Mbalula
should ensure proper transformation here if he wants disadvantaged children
watching their rugby heroes and thus taking an interest in the sport. Do
something constructive for a change to assist in transformation.
Unfortunately the body in charge of all
this seems to focus more on financial rewards, television rights and sponsorships
rather than the essence of why the cup was started in the first place!
Apparently the management consulting
company Accenture is being appointed to do a thorough analysis on the
tournament and it’s feasibility for the next decade. They should rather do a
similar study on SANZAAR and iron out the chinks in their armour. The
federation needs to take a long hard look at their weaknesses and come up with
a solution that is best for the game itself. For the fans, players , teams and overall health of the competition. No need to re-invent
Dhirshan Gobind is a 30-something freelance sports
columnist/writer and a UKZN alumnus with a degree in Marketing Management. He
also has a tri-weekly column in ‘The Post’. Disclaimer:
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