We are only a matter of weeks away from the start of Super XIV 2009 and while the debate will always rage as to which is the better competition – The Super 14 or the Heineken Cup – I don’t think we should be too quick to write off our Northern rivals. There is a lot to be said for the Heineken Cup….
For those of us who find cricket to be about as exciting as the first two hours of the movie Titanic, this time of the year can become quite a challenge. The merriment of the holidays have worn off and it is incredibly difficult if not impossible to get your weekly rugby fix! I would hardly describe myself as a Heineken Cup convert but having watched the last weekends games, I believe that there is a lot to be said for the Northern hemispheres premier competition.
Firstly, the composition of the teams make the games more interesting on some level. While the Super 14 may have more relevance to us because of the South African involvement, games between two New Zealand sides or two Aussie outfits can be a little bit tedious. I would imagine watching the Cheetahs play the Lions from the comfort of your living room in Fremantle must be the ultimate torture for any Australian rugby fan. Outside of key clashes many of the Super 14 games have little real relevance and I doubt there are many fans who watch every single encounter. The lure of the pound has created Heineken Cup teams that are far more cosmopolitan in make-up and there is something almost special about two SA halfbacks and two Kiwi centres in the same side.
The commentary teams at these games are really superb and its a joy not to have to listen to the biased Kiwi and Aussie ex players blowing smoke up their own asses or the droning on of the Supersport crews who are non-committal and avoid any form of controversy like the plague.
There is also a lot to be said for the atmosphere of the average Heineken Cup game. Rugby just seems more like rugby when played in small stadiums with rain pelting down and icy winds blowing across the pitch. A packed 15,000 seater also seems to have more character than a half empty cavern like Absa Stadium or Loftus.
I don’t doubt that the quality of rugby in the Super 14 is generally better, but sometimes (just sometimes) I can’t help thinking that the Southern hemisphere’s premier competition is become the same old same old! If SANZAR ever decide to revamp the Super 14 there is a lot to be learned from the Heineken Cup maybe not on the field but certainly in other areas.Tweet