Super Rugby 2012 a success?
So we were left with the last round of the 2012 Super Rugby season to see who the Top 6 would be! The top 2 were basically already established, with the Crusaders also confirmed as finalists, but the Hurricanes, Brumbies, Reds, Bulls and Sharks all had chances to make the finals.
And up to the last game of the last weekend, the final spots have not yet been confirmed.
The Super 15 format has come under much criticism since its inauguration. For South Africa and New Zealand, its duplicated its domestic seasons while adding very little in terms of local games by hosting only 4 international sides, from the 10 opponents. Another criticism was that the season is much too long. Stretching from as early as February, with only 2 byes per side (3 if you finish in the top 2), through a 3 week test series and into August for the finals, amounts to a marathon of a series with very little recovery time for each country’s top players.
Perhaps the main criticism is the odd manner in which the Top 3 sides are determined. With each conference guaranteed a spot n the Top 3, it was predicted that teams who have performed better than at least one of the top 3 sides, will lose out in the end. And so it did in fact happen. The Reds from Australia took up the 3rd spot with 58 points and “earned” a home play-off match, while the Crusaders (61), Bulls (59) and Sharks (59) inhabit the 4th, 5th and 6th spots, getting away playoff’s for their troubles. However, Sanzar CEO Greg Peters have reportedly come out defending the system, stating that the shoe could be on the other foot next year, and that this is the best way to get more people to watch the Rugby. Well, perhaps more people in Australia…but that’s a whole debate on its own.
Had the log been arranged properly, the playoff matches would have been the Crusaders hosting the Reds, and the Bulls hosting the Sharks…instead of the Reds hosting the Sharks, and the Crusaders hosting the Bulls. Two very much different fixtures with two very different outcomes. But in the end, it is said, to be the best you have to beat the best. And if it means that a team like the Sharks will only be deemed the “best” if they travel this week to Brisbane and defeat the Reds, travel back to South Africa and beat the Stormers at Newlands, and then travel back down to Christchurch to defeat the Crusaders…..well, then i wonder how accurate that statement really is.
Compare this with the likely outcome for the Crusaders. A home fixture against the Bulls. Then, if the Sharks manage to defeat the Reds, they will travel as far as Hamilton to face the Chiefs and if the Sharks then defeat the Stormers, the Crusaders will have spent all three weeks on home soil to host an exhausted Sharks side who crossed the globe no less than 3 times in as many weeks. And facing the Crusaders in Christchurch is daunting enough as it is. I guess that is the difference 2 points make on the log though. However, had the log looked as it should have, the Sharks would only have had to travel downunder once, for the final.
The Bulls have another little predicament:
The odds, on the Bulls’ present form, is strongly against them and with the form the Crusaders ar ein, I simply cannot see them not winning this year’s title. Is it worth the Bulls’ while to travel to New Zealand only to lose against the Saders? Yes, they will do the honorable thing and go down fighting. But is it really worth it if we consider that all of them are almost certain to be in the Bok squad for the Rugby Championship. I’ve written before about both the Bulls and Boks inability to give Morne Steyn a break, and one week extra break for the Bulls will give him and some of the other players some much needed rest.
In terms of suspense in the final round, I cannot fault the Super Ruby system this year. Each game had a significant influence on the log this weekend and it was edge of the seat stuff in some cases. But I cannot deny that I’ve been disinterested in the Super Rugby since the anticlimax of coming from test rugby back to Super Rugby and I think the only people who are happy with it, are John O’Neill, the Reds squad and Greg Peters…
Alas, we’re stuck with it and teams just have to plan to make the best of it. They will perhaps do better if they treat it like a marathon, instead of a sprint and teams like the Crusaders and in some way the Sharks, have managed their journey extremely well and seem to have saved some for the final stretch, while the two log toppers, the Stormers and Chiefs, seems to have run out of some puff in the last few weeks.
My predictions for next week:
- Crusaders to defeat the Bulls
- Sharks to beat the Reds….