Time to fix flawed Super Rugby conference format



  •  
    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.