Super rugby kicks off this weekend – in fact it has already started – it’s now the second half in Melbourne with the Blues giving the Rebels a right pasting (18-53 with 10 minutes to go).
Despite all the controversy and carping from last year’s expanded structure and unfairness the 18 team format has been retained.
Frankly I can’t see the complaints going away in 2017 – “you can’t go on doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result”
There are a couple of changes to be fair – but none will help quell the moaning – there is a first fixture in Samoa in June, meaning the 2017 Super Rugby season will now straddle 17 time zones and four continents.
The competition will retain the much criticised four conference format, while tweaking kick-off times to trial Thursday night matches and increase the number of afternoon games.
With six franchises in South Africa and five each in Australia and New Zealand, plus Japan’s Sunwolves, and Argentina’s Jaguares, organisers are wrestling with the conflicting interests of the five competing nations.
Each Super Rugby team plays 15 matches and has two byes in the 17-round regular season. The competition final is on August 5 with a short mid-season break in June and July.
On top of the varying quality between the teams – evidenced by the current game at the Rebels – there is major concern over travel schedules, player welfare, cost and time zones.
There is an interesting view on the difficulty of the schedules for each team –
Incidentally full time in Melbourne was a win (18-56) for the Blues with 7 tries and Ioane getting a hat –trick.
There has been much speculation over the dropping of a franchise from Australia and South Africa – if that is the case then it is hard to see an argument for the franchises in Japan and Argentina – except for the money implications of course.
If two teams are dropped from 2 of the big 3 giants – Jaguares and Sunwolves are likely to be bolstered by players from the lost sides – I’m not too sure how that helps much.
Despite my reservations about the Super 18 format – I much preferred the Super 12 with everyone playing everyone else and the top teams going into the play-offs – I love watching Super Rugby.
The pace and skill levels are often exceptional and I’m guessing that Warren Gatland will be videoing all the games featuring the NZ franchises that will be playing the Lions.
If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere just enjoy the rugby.
If you’re in the South – you can feel really reassured that it will all be okay – some time, maybe!
“Our biggest challenge is obviously the geographical expanse we’ve got to cover,” said Andy Marinos, the chief executive of Super Rugby’s governing body SANZAAR, while promising that team schedules would be managed better this year.