By Patrick McKendry
According to NZ Herald – Patrick McKendry, The Australian Rugby Union’s bid to go it alone with their New Zealand counterparts in a separate “Super” competition was always doomed to failure.
McKendry goes on to say, Apart from the fact that New Zealand Rugby has always been keen to keep relations healthy with South Africa due to their historical rivalry and the financial upside the South African element of the broadcast deal provides, New Zealand’s players themselves want to keep the link.
ARU chairman Cameron Clyne revealed the breakaway proposal to the media today, saying New Zealand Rugby rejected it outright.
Super Rugby matches involving South African teams are unpopular in Australia both in terms of crowds and television viewers – the latter due in part to the unfriendly time difference – but New Zealand Players’ Association boss Rob Nichol said the experience the South African teams provided Kiwi players, both in terms of the style of play and travel, was invaluable to their development.
“The nature of rugby in New Zealand, whether it’s for a franchise or an international team – the All Blacks, etc – is that you need to be able to travel and win, and Super Rugby presents a fantastic opportunity in that respect,” Nichol told Radio Sport’s D’Arcy Waldegrave.
Patrick McKedry goes on to mention some of the positives of having to play South Africa. He lists them below …..
“The players enjoy the challenge of having to go to Africa and perform and that’s been historically the case since Super Rugby started. In addition, while our international players and All Blacks in particular have to do a lot of travel, and towards the end of the year that becomes quite a challenge… a vast majority of our players really look forward to getting on the road with their team.
“That combined with the history of our relationship with South Africa… means we’re very keen to keep playing against South Africa.”
Another positive is that the frequent visits to rugby cauldrons such as Ellis Park lessen their impact when players return with the All Blacks.
Nichol said Sanzaar’s re-shuffle wasn’t perfect, but change was needed.
One of the criticisms of the 18-team format was the convoluted four-conference system. The new three-conference system, with the Jaguares joining the South Africa conference and the Sunwolves Australia’s is fairer.
Fixtures and Results
The three conference winners qualify for a home quarter-final, with the next five places given on merit.
“It’s not perfect but it’s a competition format that I believe will see the best eight teams in the finals,” Nichol said. “They may not be in the order they should be because each conference winner is going to get a home quarter-final as of right.. but it certainly presents a better balance than what we have at the moment with the 18-team competition.
“In terms of strength I think there’s a lot of work to be done around the Japanese team [Sunwolves].. given the amount of travel they do and the player base they’re selecting from, so I think Sanzaar has to put a massive amount of effort in there.
“In respect to Argentina [Jaguares], they came into this competition promising that they would do a number of things and they’ve delivered – they have contracted their players back from Europe, they are fielding a very competitive team, and they are getting better over time, so a big tick for Argentina and their involvement.”