Is this the end of the road for Super 14 Rugby?
The SANZAR partners, comprising of New Zealand, South Africa and Australia have not reached agreement on what format the Super 14 competition should take. Time is running out as they have to meet with television broadcasters by the end of June to hammer out a broadcast deal.
The South Africans agree with the expansion of the competition, but want the Southern Kings to have the additional franchise. Australia wants the franchise to be based in Melbourne.
The Aussies and the Kiwis also want the competition to extend into June and enter the “Tri Nations window”. This would mean weakened Super rugby teams at the business end of the competition. South Africa wants an earlier start to the competition to cater for the extra fixtures an expansion would bring.
I have to agree with the Aussies that starting the competition earlier would be problematic. Heat exhaustion can play a major role in games played in January and will detract from the fast pace of the game that we have come to expect from Super rugby.
Extending the competition into June is also not a viable solution though. We cannot have teams missing their international players when vying for semi final spots and neither can we compromise the Currie Cup. Although I must admit that the Currie Cup becomes a better product to watch when the Springboks return from international duty and play for their provinces.
The current format of Super 14 rugby is not working either. No matter how much one loves rugby, trying to watch 5 games on a Saturday is also overload. Never before have I left the TV on and gone and done other things around the house and quickly return to watch when a try gets scored or Bakkies Botha moers somebody.
And who gets to watch the Friday morning games? Doing the Sunday morning highlights does not work for me. Rugby was meant to be watched live and so many a good game goes by unwatched by South Africans.
The Aussie and Kiwi fans have it even worse. Many of the games played in South Africa are screened in the middle of the night overseas due to time differences. How many of them get up to watch games? I have a sneaking suspicion that there are more viewers in South Africa per game than our overseas cousins, which is why SA gets to have so much sway in these negotiations with the broadcasters.
So what is the answer? Well it’s plain to see what the Australian agenda is. They do not have a domestic rugby competition and couldn’t care about the Currie Cup or the Air New Zealand Cup. So Super rugby is where it’s at for them.
Both South Africa and New Zealand must protect their domestic competitions and cannot be pushed around by the Aussies on this point.
Personally the ultimate in rugby is a test between the Springboks and the All Blacks. But too much of a good thing is also not a good thing. Maybe the Tri Nations must be expanded to include Argentina, Samoa and Tonga and this 6 nations tournament gets played every 2 years. Old fashioned tours can be played in the off year where we can play 3 test series against Australia and New Zealandin rotation.
The Super 14 should be expanded to include the Pacific Islands teams but gets played on a regional basis at first. Then the top teams go through to a Super 6 or a Super 8 competition, while the bottom 8 or 10 teams fight it out in a “plate competition”.
This will broaden the base of rugby in the Southern Hemisphere without compromising the domestic competitions. And if the Aussies and Kiwis don’t agree……..well lets go it alone…….we have been there and done that before……….