Time to fix flawed Super Rugby conference format



  • http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/rugby/super-rugby/82432701/vanquished-stormers-criticise-super-rugbys-new-format-after-loss-to-chiefs
     
    Ok, so when the coach of the team that finished ranked third in the regular season has had enough, perhaps it is time to seriously reconsider things here.
    The objective of the conference system was, I think, primarily to reduce travel, promote player welfare, and make the completion fairer esp for the SA teams. Well, ironically this new format has resulted in the Lions leaving their entire first-choice team at home rather than travel to Argentina for the final regular season game, in addition to leaving other sides like the Stormers undercooked as pointed out by their coach.
     
    Let’s look at the Highlanders’ schedule since June. Remember this is the team that finished on 52 points, 1 behind the Hurricanes (but only good enough to make them 5th apparently).
     
    1.       Sit around for four weeks while the All Blacks play three tests against a side that’s not beaten them since the 1950’s.
    2.       Fly to South Africa via Australia
    3.       Fly to Argentina v Brazil
    4.       Return to Dunedin via Auckland
    5.       Fly to Canberra via Sydney
    6.       Fly to South Africa for a semi final, where I expect it will all finally catch up with them and they will be knocked out (although they did manage to win the comp last year playing their last 13 games in consecutive weeks so I do hold a glimmer of hope).
     
    So much for the improved travel factor leaving them playing one home game in over two months.
     
    If the commercial reality dictates that Aussie and SA must have home quarters, well:  Fleck has just slapped that right back, and the 13 people in Canberra who showed up the other evening (admittedly in atrocious conditions) seemed equally enthused. In the long term the reduced integrity of a competition that does not have the best teams positioned at the business end of the season outweighs these short term local commercial considerations. The quarter finals – the first time eight teams have faced off in a playoff weekend – were a yawn-fest with only one of the four games being close. (The real rugby begins next week now we are down to the last four, just like back in the days of the super 12.)
     
    A geographically based conference system makes sense in North America where the distances are big but the logistics and time zones remain manageable. It does not work across multiple continents. So let’s return to a round robin format. We do also need to accept we have an 18-team competition where teams and player depth can develop over time, and that allows room to expand, so:
     
    Premier division: The five NZ teams, Tahs, Brumbies, Lions, Sharks (or Stormers instead of Blues)
     
    That is nine teams. Home and away round robin = 16 rounds. Top 4 qualify for semi finals. Bottom team gets relegated to division 1. This would be awesome as every game would be like a pressure cooker must win with five of the nine teams at any given time either being in a title-shot position or in the relegation spot.
     
    Division 1 would be the remaining teams with the top four paying semi finals and the winner being promoted to the premier division the following year. That would be a great game as a curtain raiser to the premier grand final that would draw a ton of viewers although overall viewer-ship during the year for the division 1 games would be a challenge. (Still, how many SA derby games have you watched this year?)  Alternatively there could be some (limited) cross divisional games to keep overall interest up and a single round robin within each division making the season a bit shorter and sweeter.
     
    The premier division would remain at nine teams making it the world’s elite rugby competition. Division 1 could expand over time to include a team from Vancouver or perhaps a Pacific Islands team based out of Albany, or whatever.
     
    I’m sure there are flaws with this that people will point out – the main one being the travel factor for the SA teams being the very thing that prompted the change from round robin to a conference system in the first place, and maybe I am missing something obvious - not enough SA teams in the premier division to make it commercially viable probably (so they should play better rugby and get more teams up there over time?) but surely this couldn't be worse that the current screwed up format. I've had enuf.



  • Saying the US conference format doesn't work across multiple continents is pretty silly because Super Rugby doesn't have that format in the first place, it has a clusterfuck mix of conferences and round robin. That's the problem IMO.
     
    Splitting the competition into two divisions and going back to round robin just seems like a step backwards to me. It makes it harder for bad teams to get good, like the Chiefs, Lions, Landers, Tahs and Canes have all done over the last 6 or so years, and also makes the comp more boring because you're mostly playing the same exact teams twice every year. And on top of that, nothing you've just said would really fix the travel problems you've pointed out. NZ teams would still have to fly over to SA for tours and, in particular, finals.
     
    Personally, I want them to embrace and fix up the conference format instead. Just go with two conferences (Aus/NZ and Africa), have x number of crossover games between conferences and have conference finals based purely on performance within those conferences, with the final between the Aus/NZ and Africa conference winners.



  • Yep, the only way to really fix it is to agree to a final with a guaranteed African side position as Unco has suggested.
    Hard choice, but I don't see the travel being fixed without giving that up.
    Personally, I'd also like it if the final was scheduled in different cities like the Super Bowl is. I'm the sort of person who would make the trip for that, even if the Chiefs weren't involved.



  • I think this year's flawed looking "table" looks worse because the Aussie and South African teams both picked the same year to collectively shit the bed, while the NZ teams all sort of got their act together at the same time. 
     
    A competition covering the vast distances, and disparate timezones that SANZAAR has to deal with will never be perfect, there will always be a trade off. 
     
    It would probably help if the combined table was rissoled from being shown altogether, as it creates outrage where none should really exist.



  • Does anyone really give a fuck?



  • From memory Nick Mallett suggested two divisions of 10 teams. Each year two teams would be relegated & promoted
     
    But that raises it's own issues.
    Traditional rivalries may not take places for years. There would be less of the lucrative derby matches. Also, there is a risk the same sides would keep moving between the divisions and the bottom 8 would fall away



  • There are plenty of tweaks that can be made for the playoffs but the real problem is the regular season schedule and the amount of travel required to play the games across 5/6 countries and multiple time zones within a designated time period.  Ideally, every team should play eachother once and the 2 best teams host SFs and the winners end up in the final irrespective of what country/conference that team is from.  Perhaps removing the byes allows extra games to be played but that raises the issue of player welfare.
     
    I don't see the current format being changed unless the June tours are either moved to later in the season or not played at all.  But that's another debate...



  • Does anyone really give a fuck?

    Based on the dwindling crowd sizes these days, most probably don't.



  • Personally, I want them to embrace and fix up the conference format instead. Just go with two conferences (Aus/NZ and Africa), have x number of crossover games between conferences and have conference finals based purely on performance within those conferences, with the final between the Aus/NZ and Africa conference winners.

    I'm not sure I could get my head around always having an SA team in the final, although I know that's how the US conference systems need to work. Probably the most realistic way to make the existing conference format work though.



  • Saying the US conference format doesn't work across multiple continents is pretty silly because Super Rugby doesn't have that format in the first place, it has a clusterfuck mix of conferences and round robin. That's the problem IMO.
     
    Splitting the competition into two divisions and going back to round robin just seems like a step backwards to me. It makes it harder for bad teams to get good, like the Chiefs, Lions, Landers, Tahs and Canes have all done over the last 6 or so years, and also makes the comp more boring because you're mostly playing the same exact teams twice every year. And on top of that, nothing you've just said would really fix the travel problems you've pointed out. NZ teams would still have to fly over to SA for tours and, in particular, finals.
     
    Personally, I want them to embrace and fix up the conference format instead. Just go with two conferences (Aus/NZ and Africa), have x number of crossover games between conferences and have conference finals based purely on performance within those conferences, with the final between the Aus/NZ and Africa conference winners.

    The only difficult thing there is, who gets the home final?



  • I'm not sure I could get my head around always having an SA team in the final, although I know that's how the US conference systems need to work. Probably the most realistic way to make the existing conference format work though.

    Sure it'll suck to see the end of all NZ finals but I think it's the right move. It makes the format a lot easier to understand, can feed into the NZ vs SA rivalry (with an Aussie cameo once every few years), cuts down on most of the bullshit finals travel and is probably the best option in terms of $$$.

    The only difficult thing there is, who gets the home final?

    Using the NBA as my example, the team who has the most points in the regular season. gt12's SuperBowl idea is kinda interesting though.



  • The problem with the competition is that it really makes no sense at all to have the South African, Sunwolves & Argentinian team involved.
     
    Apart from the cash which the first 2 offer, and the "expansion and we love argentina" feel-good factor.
     
    I don't think there is a solution which works well for NZ rugby.  Part of me almost hopes that SA rugby realise that they are pretty much so being taken advantage of, and bugger off.  A NZ  / Aussie  / Suva / Apia tournament would work really well, and should sell to NH. 
     
    A tournament where teams may have to make 3-4 seperate long haul flights just doesn't make sense.  Money is being chosen over logistics.



  • MR, apparently the ARU pitched a Trans-Tasman comp to the NZRU at the last round of negotiations, but the Kiwis knocked it back. The money has to be the main reason, and in the commercial world we live in I suppose that's understandable.
     
    I think the comp is a bit of a dog's breakfast at the moment, but considering it now covers 50% of the fucking globe I'm not sure if that is ever going to be avoidable.
     
    The one thing I will say is the best team ends up holding the trophy 95% of the time. Yes a few teams may be screwed out of a home final, but them's the breaks, and it generally sorts itself out in the end.



  • I think the comp is a bit of a dog's breakfast at the moment, but considering it now covers 50% of the fucking globe I'm not sure if that is ever going to be avoidable.
     
    The one thing I will say is the best team ends up holding the trophy 95% of the time. Yes a few teams may be screwed out of a home final, but them's the breaks, and it generally sorts itself out in the end.

    2011 Reds



  • yep, for all the perceived weaknesses, and "legs up" the winner of the comp is going to be a kiwi team, or the Lions, which is pretty much justified given the play over the course of the season.



  • 2011 Reds

    the 2011 Reds were a good side. 
     
    You can't blame Sanzar for the earthquake. Or the Crusaders taking a game to London.



  • yep, for all the perceived weaknesses, and "legs up" the winner of the comp is going to be a kiwi team, or the Lions, which is pretty much justified given the play over the course of the season.

    Yep if Lions win they will have beaten 3 Kiwi teams in 3 successive knockout games - deserved winners I would say.
     
    Also - all 4 play a cracking entertaining style of rugby too.



  • MR, apparently the ARU pitched a Trans-Tasman comp to the NZRU at the last round of negotiations, but the Kiwis knocked it back. The money has to be the main reason, and in the commercial world we live in I suppose that's understandable.

    The majority of SANZAAR's broadcasting income is from SA and Supersport.  Tew said earlier in the year that an Australasian comp wouldn't be financially viable.  I can't find the exact quote but to paraphrase he said it wouldn't last more than a year or two.



  • the 2011 Reds were a good side. 
     
    You can't blame Sanzar for the earthquake. Or the Crusaders taking a game to London.

    Or the NZ teams resting players before the RWC.



  • the 2011 Reds were a good side. 
     
    You can't blame Sanzar for the earthquake. Or the Crusaders taking a game to London.

    They were a good side, blessed by a dream draw that saw damn near all tough opposition at home, avoiding some key threats.
     
    I still remember the look McCaw gave the ref at the end of the RR game when they got penalised after blowing over and past the ball ... cost them the game and a home path to the finals.  The rest, as they say, is history.



  • Surely Robbie Fleck watched some games of Super Rugby this year that involved New Zealand sides?Either way, one conference tournament isn't enough data to scrap the competition.



  • Agree.  But 41-0 and 60-21 are not scores of quarter finals in anything above the most amateur of competitions.
     
    EDIT:  Just thinking what we did to France in RWC ... contradiction time!



  • The finals system sucks but IMHO this format is by far the best for NZ rugby. We get an elite NPC, the other nations don't play us near enough to get used to us and of course there's the SANZAR cash.
    One thing that's ridiculous is the Sunwolves playing in an African conference. Surely it would make far more sense for them to be together with NZ or Aus.



  • why not have a nba type playoff system. This year the wc in the nba hard many strong teams that could probably have deserved a trip to playoffs ahead of many EC teams but ad the playoff system is set they could only fight it out in their conference. the gamesof okc/spurs okc/gsw were so entertaining that they didn't devalue just because they were not finals.



  • One relatively simple change that SANZAR could do is have a week off between the semi finals and the final. I know a lot of people won't like it because it essentially leaves a week with no rugby. However, that would really balance out the negative effects of the travel schedule. If the Chiefs have to play an away final in South Africa, you would give them a far better chance if they had an extra week to rest up and get used to altitude.



  • the 2011 Reds were a good side.
    You can't blame Sanzar for the earthquake. Or the Crusaders taking a game to London.
    Can blame them for admitting a woeful Rebels team after the ARU proved they couldn't even stock the Force with passable talent. Then mandating that the "winner" of that conference got a bye and a home final.
    When we first saw the structure I think most predicted if there was a half decent Aus team they would cake walk to a home final with travel taking care of the other side of the bracket.
    SA teams now have much more of an advantage with the three of the four worst teams all in their conference - plus the travel factor.
    2011 Reds were one of the better non-Brumbies Aussie Super teams - but probably the weakest winners in Super history aside from perhaps the first Crusaders title.



  • This year I have simply refused to watch any games that do not feature a NZ side, hence this was my first time watching the Stormers.



  • I'd like to see them go back to a 12 team competition with every side playing each other, but it ain't going to happen.



  • One feature of the current set up I like is the large number of intra- New Zealand games. I don't really want to go back to round robin. I realise the OP wasn'tsuggesting straight round robin but the stormers were after their loss to the chiefs.



  • I think we should give it another year at least.  One year is not enough to make a judgement.  
     
    The only tweak I'd make for next year is to say that only the Division winner gets a guaranteed home quarter (ie one team from the 2 SA conference and one team from NZ/AUS conference.  After that all playoff should be played at the team who scored more points in the RR.
     
    That tweak aside, let's give it a chance to bed in for another year or two.



  • I posted this into one of the other forums, but its more appropriate here:
     
    I whole-heartedly believe Super Rugby should use the finals system they use in AFL (or a similar version of it) and subsequently the NRL who realised it was better than what they had been using.
    Essentially, 1 v 4, 2 v 3 and then 5 v 8 and 6 v 7.
    Positions 1-4 get the double-life, so winners of boths games actually get a week off, while the losers play winners of 5-8.
    I would give the conference winners positions 1 - 4, based on actual ladder.
    Then 5 - 8, would be the next four highest overall table placings.
    Highest rank team gets the home-advantage whole way through to GF.
     
    This years finals would look something like.

    1. Hurricanes v 4. Brumbies
    2. Lions v 3. Stormers - Look South Africa get a semi-final in the republic week 1, and finals in the next two weeks as well.
    3. Highlanders v 8. Sharks
    4. Chiefs v 7. Crusaders
      Lets suggest the home-team wins. Hurricanes & Lions both get a week off, and will host the major semi-finals.
       
      So week 2. I think the AFL sets it up a bit different, but lets give the highest rank team, the advantage of playing the lowest rank team.
    5. Stormers v 6. Chiefs
    6. Brumbies v. 5. Highlanders
      Lets suggest the winners, for shits and giggles were the winners of the most recent game between these two sides. Highlanders and... the Chiefs (in 2015). 
       
      Week 3 finals then.
    7. Hurricanes v 6. Chiefs
    8. Lions v. 5. Highlanders
       
      At this point, well... Highlanders have had to travel, twice and lose. The Chiefs, controversely get Liam Messam back, who having slimmed downed for sevens outsprints Beaudy in a race for a bobbling ball on time to win. Fanciful right? I like the romance of the Hurricanes winning...
      Anyway 2. Lions v 6. Chiefs.
       
      Chiefs win, when 8 out of 15 players rested in the infamous Round 17 game v the Jaguares suffer soft-tissue injuries in the first 15min of the Final. Liam Messam kicking an unlikely droppie when Crudes bounce one off the opposition #9 with time almost up.
       
      Anyways, you get the idea of the finals.


  • It's not controversial, but it still doesn't deal with the travel factor.
     
    The issue seems to be around teams being asked to make insane trips - if the Chiefs win this weekend, it's probably back on the plane to SA for a final FFS.
     
    I am starting to come around to an idea of playing knockout footy in the Australasian and African conferences - throw up a champ however you like, and they then go for it (possibly even at a neutral venue).  Only one bad inter-conference trip involved.



  • How about hosting not just the final at a neutral venue but holding the entire knockout stage in one country. So the quarters, semis and finals would all be held in New Zealand one year, South Africa the next, Australia the year after, then Argentina or Japan and back to New Zealand? Kind of a mini-tournament at the end of the regular season. Just a random thought.
     
    Obviously, coming up with a good structure for the entire tournament is difficult given the different number of teams in the pools. If there were four pools of four or five (no thanks) each, it becomes a lot easier.



  • How about hosting not just the final at a neutral venue but holding the entire knockout stage in one country. So the quarters, semis and finals would all be held in New Zealand one year, South Africa the next, Australia the year after, then Argentina or Japan and back to New Zealand? Kind of a mini-tournament at the end of the regular season. Just a random thought.
    Obviously, coming up with a good structure for the entire tournament is difficult given the different number of teams in the pools. If there were four pools of four or five (no thanks) each, it becomes a lot easier.

    Yeah I like that. Especially if the team that would have got the home advantage gets a bigger slice of the pie.
    I'm sure the Brumbies wouldn't mind that. I don't even think they broke even hosting a game against the Highlanders because of the fee they had to pay them.



  • How about hosting not just the final at a neutral venue but holding the entire knockout stage in one country.

    Not enough broadcast money in it I suspect.  All of this is driven by the need to have content in multiple TV markets.



  • How about hosting not just the final at a neutral venue but holding the entire knockout stage in one country. So the quarters, semis and finals would all be held in New Zealand one year, South Africa the next, Australia the year after, then Argentina or Japan and back to New Zealand? Kind of a mini-tournament at the end of the regular season. Just a random thought.
     
    Obviously, coming up with a good structure for the entire tournament is difficult given the different number of teams in the pools. If there were four pools of four or five (no thanks) each, it becomes a lot easier.

    I dunno, Chiefs vs Hurricanes is arguably the biggest match of the year so far this weekend, and if it was in SA, it would probably get 300 spectators.
     
    There just isn't a solution.



  • I still think the simplest answer is just to have a week off between the semi final and final. If the Chiefs were to have another week to prepare for a final against the Lions, you couldn't really blame the travel.



  • I still think the simplest answer is just to have a week off between the semi final and final. If the Chiefs were to have another week to prepare for a final against the Lions, you couldn't really blame the travel.Interesting. In NFL (and don't call me out on this as I am a casual and sporadic fan) they have 2 weeks between the semis and the finals. You get a bitworn down by the hype and just want the game to start already by the time it finally comes around.The other point I will admit to pulling out of my arse, two weeks is a long time to prepare for a final and some teams seem to really get the tactics right which canresult in blow outs through sheer exhaustive analysis of the other team. A couple of times when they only had a week long break the games appeared to be closer (maybe that wasjust a fluke though I concede before someone with more NFL knowledge objects).



  • I usually find the "my brilliant structure" posts pretty boring, so I'll keep this very brief.
     
    Three conferences
    SA
    Aus + Sunwolves
    NZ + Jaguares
     
    Play all the teams in your conference home and away (10 games per team)
     
    Break for the June internationals.
     
    Top three teams in each conference go into the "Top Nine" division - carrying forward the points they've obtained against the teams that progress with them
    Bottom three teams in each conference go into the "Bottom Nine".
     
    Play the six teams you haven't already played in your division (6 more games).
     
    Top six teams from Top Nine and top two teams from the Bottom Nine contest the play-offs.



  • Interesting idea although once teams realise that if theyre in the top nine, 3 good teams are going miss the playoffs altogether so theyll be manouevring to get in the bottom 9 and aim for 2 of the "easier" routes to the playoffs anyway?

    To get home advantage you'd have to be in the Top 9.


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