Johannesburg – Loftus Versfeld wasn’t full on Saturday, neither was the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium a day earlier and Ellis Park is not likely to get 30 000 in the stands this weekend. Are these the signs of the times, that people simply don’t have extra cash lying around to spend on rugby matches?
I think that’s part of the issue, but more significantly, I believe rugby fans are a little jaded and perhaps even tired of the week-in, week-out rugby.
Super Rugby has been on the go for close to five months and, let’s be honest, there’s only that much a rugby fan can take in, especially if he or she has seen it all before. There’s nothing really special about the competition anymore, it’s a slog from one week to the next, with not much changing … it’s the same teams, same times, same players, same referees (who are on a hiding to nothing because of the laws) and generally the same teams contest the finals series.
Sure, we’ve had a few surprises this season, with the Cheetahs sneaking into the top six, but the defending champions from 2012 are back in the final at home and hot favourites to win again. They were joined in the knockout games by among others the Bulls, Reds and Crusaders – pretty predictable – while the Brumbies have been the big surprise package, or have they?
Jake White laid the foundations last season and from the off this year the men from Canberra have set the tone in Australia and been among the leading teams, so their getting to the final is not such a surprise after all.
News then that Australia and New Zealand are considering a break away from Super Rugby come 2016, leaving us to seek competition elsewhere, may not be such a bad idea. Is Super Rugby getting tired? I think it is.
One option is to have the three Sanzar countries continue with a double round of internal derby matches – be it five or six teams, or whatever – and the top two sides after those countries then go into a cross-country playoff to determine the champion team of the Southern hemisphere. Hell, you could even include Argentina to provide two teams for the playoffs … because it would be up to them to determine how many teams they want playing in their own “domestic” competition. It’s one suggestion. Anyway, Super Rugby needs some freshening up.
On another note, White deserves plenty of praise for what he’s achieved with the Brumbies. He’s done brilliantly with the Brumbies and has again shown he is up there with the best rugby coaches in the world. They’ll have their backs to the wall in Saturday’s final, but I wouldn’t write them off, not with White in charge. – The Star
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