The new Super 15 format has been met with widespread criticism, but the expansion of Super Rugby may not be over yet, with plans being put in place for a Super 18 tournament from 2013.
Concerns of player burn-out top the list of the arguments from critics of the expanded competition which has increased by eight weeks and three league games.
But these fears are falling on the deaf ears of Australian officials who are continue to look to squeeze every last cent out of the Southern Hemisphere’s flagship domestic competition.
Rugby 365 reports that Australian officials have been conducting discussions aimed at further ‘super-sizing’ the tournament to incorporate 18 teams, including two from Japan.
These plans have been endorsed by the Australian Rugby Union Players’ Association, with RUPA chief executive Tony Dempsey telling the Sydney Morning Herald :
“[There is] a terrific opportunity to bolt on in 2013, two Japanese teams and an extra South Africa team, which would take it to a Super 18.”
“Through this, you are able to placate South Africa, who are after a sixth team (the Southern Kings), and as well you are accessing new commercial markets in Japan,” he said.
“You are also creating further development in a country which has the potential to become a Super Rugby force. We’re keen to explore it. New commercial markets in Japan cannot be ignored.
Player burnout is not as much of a concern to Australia as it is to their South African and New Zealand counterparts, who have to deal with the rigours of their respective domestic tournaments – the Currie Cup and Air New Zealand Cup.
When quizzed about the problem, Dempsey came up with the following, rather strange, response:
“Despite the increased number of games, the revised competition will not necessarily mean a substantially bigger workload for the players,” Dempsey said.
“Currently, when not playing, players are subjected to numerous intensive physical training sessions to maintain fitness. With the increase in the number of matches this competition brings, players will be playing more games but training less to compensate.”
“Players have frequently made it clear they would much rather play games than continuously train.”
Australian Franchise bosses were unanimous in their support for further expansion, trumpeting the revamped tournament and the possibility of a Super 18 as a fan and sponsor’s dream, which would serve to boost the coffers of their unions.
Interestingly, the issues of player burnout or quality of rugby was ignored.
NSW Rugby Union chief executive Jim L’Estrange has greeted the revised Super 15 with excitement:
“We’ve been looking for a longer season, so 2011 sounds very exciting because it will provide a better and more robust product,” L’Estrange said.
“Being able to play in a conference, and regularly against the other Australian provinces, is a great offering both for the supporters and sponsors. It gives us extra games at home.”
“The local derbies are generally our biggest crowds, while we are very pro the six-team finals,” L’Estrange said.
ACT Rugby Union chief executive Andrew Fagan also raved about the new Super 15.
“It is absolutely what we need,” Fagan said.
“The best thing about it is that it will give us eight home games every year, and four of those will be local derbies.
“The most regular comment is that the Super tournament is over when people are just starting to get into it. We will have 16 matches … and there is a guarantee every single year that there will be a final in Australia.”Tweet