Approaching the business end of Super Rugby 2016 got me thinking about the season and how it will be remembered.
I love Super Rugby and it’s arrival in early February is always a memorable occasion for me. Not only does it arrive like an oasis in a rugby drought but it also gives Saturdays meaning.
But what’s your thoughts on this year’s Super Rugby season? How has it been for you?
For me, it hasn’t been the greatest and when we look back on it one day – I believe 5 hallmarks will shape it’s legacy.
1. Competing for the ball in the air
While red cards used to be a rarity – SR16 has dished out a couple and at least 2 of those have been for a player ineffectively challenging for the ball while another is in the air. Both Leolin Zas and Jason Emery were given marching orders for challenges that resulted in nasty falls. CJ Stander also got his marching orders for something similar against Ireland. Punishment for this offence was harsh indeed in 2016 and rightly so.
2. Not being Australia’s year
After Australia’s solid performance at RWC15 I felt sure that the Wallaby teams would be competitive and their supporters insufferable during this year’s SR. Luckily neither of those were true. While the Waratahs and the Brumbies are still in the hunt for a playoff spot – they have been inconsistent whilst the Rebels, Force and Reds have been whipping boys. Their efforts haven’t been aided by the conference system, sure but SR16 form has spilled into international rugby and it will be interesting to see how they perform in the Rugby Champs.
3. A convoluted conference system
If it wasn’t for the contrived Super Rugby conference system – the playoff picture would’ve looked different. There would be a serious NZ flavour with only a light sprinkling of SA. I hate the conference system and am also not a fan of the fact that we now have 18 teams and want to add more. Enough already. If we want to add more teams we need a first division and a premier division but for commercial reasons this will never happen and the next item in our list will happen more and more…
4. Waning crowds/interest
The conference system can be blamed for sure but there are other issues at play too. For example, SA derbies always used to pull a crowd but even these can’t seem to put bums in seats. Even if they did, the SA conference is not very competitive at the moment with the Cheetahs, Kings, Sharks, Bulls and even the Stormers having up and down seasons. Even the competition topping Lions can’t pull a crowd and their brand of rugby is like rugby porn. Kings stadium is empty. Bulls’ ‘oos paviljoen’ is without horned ones and the Cheetah’s Harleys have gone quiet. Sad.
5. Competition-winning rugby from the Lions
The first 4 are negative but this last one is the total opposite. This year the Lions have played champagne rugby and claimed some serious scalps at home and away. They have a flat, effective attack and combine that with a solid defensive game and a good set piece. Akkers must be lauded for his long term vision and with a bit of luck, his efforts will pay off this year because despite SA having 3 teams represented in the knock outs – only the Lions stand a real shot of grabbing that trophy.
There you have it sports fans. Anything we have left off the list? If so, hit us with a tweet @leftbacks or a comment below and let the banter begin!