It is hard work being a SANZAR administrator you sit around getting paid huge amounts of money for making stupid decisions. SANZAR single handedly took what was a premier competition, and turned it into a watered down product, now struggling to keep its head above water. What started as the Super 10 somehow became The Super 18 consisting of 6 teams to many! That’s right we believe 6 teams must be booted to make Super Rugby watchable again.
Consider the following scenario. It is the midway stage of Super Rugby. You have the Crusaders playing the Sunwolves; you have the Reds playing The Southern Kings. Your prime time fixture is a Saturday night local derby between the Stormers and the Lions (which is early morning in Australia & New Zealand). Except for the last match the latter matches can’t even fill a 30 thousand seat stadium by 10%, let alone attract some sort of TV audience, with the only group of individuals showing remote interest being online punters. Online betting is essentially the only thing that can spark some sort of interest in horrible one-sided fixtures. Where everyone knows what the outcome will be.
Super Rugby Loosing its audience
If you look at it from a TV network standpoint, viewing numbers (which is very important when it comes to contract negotiations) Viewers will only tune in for the prime time fixture, the other fixtures are complete misses. The point is Super Rugby viewing numbers are at an all-time low and it is due to the extraordinary number of one sided matches. The average winning margin for the 2016 Super Rugby season was 15-points, which is a direct testament of the one sided nature of the tournament.
It’s not only viewership numbers which are declining, spectators (with the exception of a couple of franchises) aren’t coming to the stadiums anymore. As was reported by (politically correct) SA Rugby Magazine, the fixture between the Bulls and the Southern Kings in round 6, managed to fill a 50’000 capacity stadium with only 8000 spectators!
From the above it is evident that immediate intervention is needed, even the most incompetent of Super Rugby administrators have admitted the need for immediate change and team reduction. The problem is that for several weeks now the administrators have been keeping the public and players in suspense. This is especially unfair towards the players, for obvious reasons. Will the Rebels go, will the Force or Cheetahs go? These are all questions popping up among players and fans alike. We believe the long silence from SANZAR is due to the fact that there is no plan. Thus, TheSportfreak thought we will help those greedy administrators by giving our opinion on how a revamped Super Rugby tournament should look like.
Revamping The Super Rugby Tournament.
As mentioned in the introduction, we would get rid of 6 teams. Essentially reverting back to the Super 12, with a round robin format where each team plays the other (that’s only fair right?) While in theory the above may sound great. The problem comes in with which teams to remove. You have the political interference in South Africa with the Southern Kings, who were forced into the tournament. In Australia you have “experts” such as Andrew Mehrtens claiming that, removing the Force will essentially kill rugby union in Western Australia. Then there is New-Zealand who has 5 franchises, sitting on a throne of ease, with no problems, so surely you can’t cut there? Below we will give a summary of which teams we believe needs to get booted, assuming no political or administration interference.
South African Super Rugby Franchises
Sure there is a huge pool of talent in South Africa but having 6 Super Rugby franchises dilutes that talent, which makes South African super rugby teams less competitive.
- Cheetahs – Yes, the Cheetahs is the traditional Springbok factory. Yet, one has the be realistic. When last has the Cheetahs really been competitive in the Super Rugby tournament? Sure they pull off an upset here and there but they are simply not consistent enough! However, more importantly we ask the question is there really a big enough market in Bloemfontein to sustain a Super Rugby franchise…NO! While we are big Cheetahs supporters, the franchise is operating at a loss. Hench, the Cheetahs player poaching by bigger unions! The Bloemfontein franchise is simply not strong enough financially to hold on to their players.
- Southern Kings – Not much to be said here. Everyone knows the Kings were forced into the tournament by political interference. At the height of the Kings controversy SARU held SANZAR hostage saying South Africa will not compete in the tournament if the Kings aren’t included. There is NO market in Port Elizabeth for a Super Rugby franchise, let alone an uncompetitive franchise, as is evident by stadium attendance.
Australian Super Rugby Franchises
Rugby is not real popular in Australia, a recent survey done by TopEnd sports statistics, showed rugby came in at a lowly number 6 of most popular sports in Australia! Thus, the natural question, with rugby union competing with an already crowded Australian sports market can they really sustain 5 franchises?
Australia is a continent thus, 5 franchises might not sound all that much, however as is evident, it is NOT sustainable!
- Rebels– The Rebels were introduced into Super Rugby in 2011. After 6-years, this is more than enough time to build a Super Rugby winning team. Yet, the Rebels have completely failed to impress. Crowd attendance at AAMI stadium is low, with only about a 30% attendance rate. If you look at it from a demo graphical view, you can ask yourself the question — is the Rebels really necessary for Australian Rugby or Super Rugby?
One can also make a compelling argument that the Brumbies should be axed. The West Coast in Australia has untapped potential for a GOOD Super Rugby team. Although the west coast is, and always will be Australian Rules football country, there is a large enough market for a Winning team to get stadiums full.
- Brumbies– This is where it gets controversial, the Brumbies is an original Super Rugby franchise i.e. it has been there since the creation of Super Rugby. We have to agree with Andrew Merthens who said you can’t cut rugby off from the West Coast of Australia by removing the Force. This is true, if you cut the Force, you cut the whole Western Australia market, as can be seen in the image above.
- Sunwolves– While we are strong believers that you should grow rugby around the world, you cannot do so by including a sub-par team in a premier competition. While it’s beautiful to see Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium in Japan, filled to capacity with each Sunwolves match (not the case with the Singaporean stadium). Reality is the Sunwolves are not ready to compete in Super Rugby. In retrospect the best decision would have been to create a “B” league Super Rugby tournament with a promotion / relegation format.
- Jaguares. The Jaguares are starting to find their strive and are truly competitive. The problem we have with the Jaguares is a geographical one. If you have a match in New Zealand, it would be 2AM in Argentina. Thus, you are completely missing your Argentinian audience. While the opposite is true for matches played in Argentina. There is certainly a market for a good Super Rugby team in Buenos Aires but you can’t incorporate that market with an Australian / New Zealand market.
Would it not be nice to see a competitive Super Rugby tournament again? The current product is diluted and starting to lose its audience. We are of the strong opinion that by cutting the above mentioned teams it will benefit Super Rugby both competitively and financially.
As always let us know what which teams would you cut, by dropping us a comment below!