One of the supposed selling points of the latest incarnation of Super Rugby (or SupeR ugby, if you take the hideous new logo at face value) is a dramatic increase in the number of local derbies on offer. Forgive me if I’m not exactly jumping up and down at the prospect.
To my mind, one of the coolest things about Super Rugby, in its previous incarnations, was specifically that you got to see a bit more variety on the local landscape. Brought up on a diet of local teams laying into each other in the Currie Cup – not that it’s not fun to watch that – it really was a breath of fresh air to see our teams match themselves against the best provincial or regional outfits that the Aussies or Kiwis could muster. We still had the Currie Cup, after all and we would be guaranteed a good number of local derbies during Super Rugby anyway, since each team had to play every other team anyway.
I have found, though, that the standard of rugby dished up by the local derbies in Super Rugby has always been disappointing – vastly inferior to games featuring teams from different countries. The “grudge match” mentality is all too prevalent, leading to the shackles coming on and teams playing out to a dull 6-3 arm wrestle – teams are so afraid to lose against their “traditional rivals” that they don’t actually try to win. It’s dull and predictable and reminds me of the 6 Nations at its worst. This is not just a Saffa phenomenon either, though. Anyone who has been forced to sit through a Reds v Tahs game will know exactly what I mean. Compare this to the high-paced, exciting game you’re likely to get when the Sharks play the Blues, the Brumbies take on the Crusaders or the Bulls face the Hurricanes. THOSE are the exciting games that define the Super Rugby mystique – and those are exactly the sort of contests I feel we should have more of.
Once again, though, the muppets in charge of the game in South Africa have seen to throw away our interests altogether in the name of appeasement of the biggest bully of all, Jon O’Neill. Where we actually had a pretty phenomenal domestic competition guaranteed to provide local fans with their fill of derby action, we have now sacrificed that on the Super Rugby altar and ended up with something that does us no favours at all, while giving the bloody Aussies the domestic competition they have thus far been unable to establish on their own.
Anybody having a detailed look at the fixtures list will notice another concession. No New Zealand or Australian team now has to tour South Africa for more than 2 weeks. Whereas Saffa teams are now all tied into a 4-week tour every season (which is, admittedly, a slight advantage over the 5-week tour we had to endure in alternate years in the Super 14) the seniors partners in the SANZAR alliance have arranged things in such a way that their teams are never away from home for longer than a fortnight. Guess Oregan Hoskins was sleeping or playing solitaire on his phone while the fixtures list was being drawn up…Tweet