The revised format of the new Super 15 competition has left a lot of people scratching their heads in confusion, whilst those that can understand it are scratching their heads at the rationale.
The expanded competition with the addition of the Melbourne Rebels means that there are now five teams from each of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Unlike a normal league in which each team plays each other, the 15 teams are split into three conferences, in which they’ll play teams from their country home and away. That much makes sense, but they’ll also play selected teams from the other conferences on a home OR away basis, and then there will be a six-team play-off stage to decide the ultimate winner.
Teams will play the other teams in their country / conference Home and Away providing 8 games.
Teams will also play four of the five teams in each of the other conferences, although it’s not quite clear how these fixtures are determined – this is another 8 games.
Six teams will then compete in the playoffs: conference winners and the three next best teams with the most points. The top two teams will go straight to the semi-final stage, whilst the other four teams will play each other to decide the two semi-finalists
The official rationale is to increase excitement in the tournament by creating more local derbies. SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters had this to say:
“We believe this competition will deliver even more of what our fans in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand are telling us that they love about Super Rugby including more local derbies, intense cross-conference competition and the expanded final series with the guarantee of a home final for each of the conference winners.”
The general consensus is that the move is good for Australian rugby, where there is no other domestic championship like the Currie Cup and the NPC, but not so good for the South Africans and New Zealanders. Their domestic tournaments might be feeling a little hard done by, as this new format is likely to undermine their value as separate competitions.
The complexity of the format will surely be to the competition’s overall detriment as well. Those fans that have a casual interest in the sport will find it that much harder to follow, and it’s those that the administrators should be targeting.
Also, if I’ve missed the explanation for how the ‘four of five teams in other conferences’ will be determined, let me know. I can’t find a proper explanation, which suggests it will be pot luck, and that luck could well have an impact on the final tables. Teams will be hoping they get to play the new Rebels and the Cheetahs as two of the weaker sides and maybe avoid the Crusaders or the Bulls, but not everyone will get lucky.
The new logo has had its fair share of criticism as well. What is Super Ugby anyway? What are your thoughts on the new-look tournament?