New viable Super 14 format includes seven nations and excitement
Article Published: Sunday 28 September 2008
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New viable Super 14 format includes seven nations and excitement
The promise of the Super 14's expansion is thought to be behind the New Zealand Rugby Union's announcement to keep the Air New Zealand Cup at 14 teams but a new development in the works could make the Super 14 more competitive than it has ever been.
ARU Boss John O'Neill has spoken many times about increasing the tournament to a Super 15 in 2010 and then a Super 18 three years later in 2013.
Adding teams that are not up to the playing standard of the current teams in the Super 14 will only harm the tournament as the overall standard of rugby will be reduced until the new teams are up to the same level. That could take years with four new teams.
While nothing to do with the expansion of the Super 14 has been finalised, we can reveal that a proposal for a new "feeder" tournament along with a promotion/relegation system has been put forward by SARugby to their broadcaster SuperSport and has received crucial backing from the broadcaster.
The new plan keeps the Super 14 at 14 teams but includes teams from seven nations by creating a promotion and relegation system.
The new plan will continue with the existing SANZAR countries (South Africa, New Zealand and Australia) but will also help develop players and teams from Argentina, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa making it a true Southern Hemisphere tournament as it includes Seven countries.
All the major Southern Hemisphere rugby playing nations will be included, much to the IRB's delight and as teams will be rewarded for playing well and demoted for sub-standard play, the tournament will become more competitive increasing the general standard of play AND as a bonus, the tournament will be refreshed every year with a new set of teams.
Each country will need greater depth, the product will be more exciting and the flow of Southern Hemisphere players to the Northern Hemisphere will be slowed.
Sources in South Africa have told us that the president of SA Rugby, Oregan Hoskins has already made contact with their SANZAR partners outlining the tournament plan and that he is set to table the initiative at the next Sanzar meeting to be held in Sydney on the 15th October.
The new format has been designed to make Southern Hemisphere and Super Rugby an attractive rugby spectacle by introducing a coherent rugby inventory that compliments the existing domestic and international tournaments and makes the Super 14 stronger.
Here is how it works.
SA Rugby (Hoskins) will propose to Sanzar that the way forward to expand rugby in the southern hemisphere will be that each of the Sanzar countries have an extra Super Rugby franchise based around the Super 14, still with 14 teams and will be as follows:
1. South Africa to have six (five plus one) franchises with the fifth-placed South African franchise in the Super 14 to play the sixth franchise in a relegation and promotion Tri-Game Series (Home, Away & Neutral territory). This is played in the last month of the Super 14 each year when the Super 14 semis and finals are played, as the last placed side is well known. This becomes the South African Domestic Tri-Game Series of relegation and promotion.
South Africa then will have the following teams - Bulls, Cheetahs, Lions, Sharks, Stormers and an Eastern Cape franchise.
2. New Zealand to have six (five plus one) franchises with the fifth- or last-placed New Zealand franchise in the Super 14 to play the sixth franchise in a relegation and promotion Tri-Game Series (Home, Away & Neutral territory). This is played in the last month of the Super 14 each year when the Super 14 semis and finals are played, as the last-placed side is well known. This becomes the New Zealand Domestic Tri-Game Series of relegation and promotion.
New Zealand will then have the following teams - Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders, Hurricanes and a Northland/Tasman or even second Blues team.
3. Australia to have five (four plus one) franchises with the fourth- or last-placed Australian franchise in the Super 14 to play the fifth franchise in a relegation and promotion Tri-Game Series (Home, Away & Neutral Territory). This is played in the last month of the Super 14 each year when the Super 14 semis and finals are played, as the last-placed side is well known. This becomes the Australian Domestic Tri-Game Series of relegation and promotion.
Australia then will have the following teams - Brumbies, Force, Lions, Reds, Waratahs and a team from Melbourne.
4. Argentina to have two (Buenos Aires and Montevideo) franchises to play each other in a relegation and promotion Tri-Game Series (Home, Away & Neutral Territory). This is played in the year before the southern hemisphere Super Rugby tournament is played, and the winner participates in the new Super 14 tournament.
Argentina then would have a team from Buenos Aires and a Montevideo team.
5. The three Sanzar franchises that drop out from the Super 14 and therefore will not be competing in the Super 14 from February to May each year, will play a round-robin southern hemisphere Super Rugby tournament (a “B” series) against an Argentine franchise (Buenos Aires or Montevideo) and a composite Pacific Islands (Tonga, Fiji & Samoa) side.
This component expands rugby in the Southern Hemisphere and includes the tier 2 & 3 nations and establishes a tournament for the franchises not making the Super 14 cut, plus benefits each country’s players, broadcasters and sponsors with an additional rugby inventory.
This has the net effect of immediately slowing the migration of Southern Hemisphere players to Europe by retaining each country’s player asset base, and introducing a premium television product by linking 7 iconic Southern Hemisphere rugby playing nations in a Super Rugby tournament.
The current format in the Super 14 does not punish teams for sub-standard play and towards the end of the tournament teams have little to play for once they have failed to qualify for the play offs.
The plan to include six teams for the play offs looks set to go ahead from next year which will provide excitement for those top six teams.
In the above format, the remaining eight teams would still have something to play for - their places in the next tournament.
Sanzar will meet on the 15th October in Sydney to decide on the proposal.
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