I remember the first few guises of Super rugby, the Super 8, Super 10 and the Super 12. I was a youngster when it started, quite surprised that suddenly our much loved local teams were taking on these teams from overseas, littered with great All Blacks and Wallabies that I’d only seen during Springboks tours and during the 1991 and 1995 world cup.
Great players like Andrew Mehrtens playing with Justin Marshall. Tim Horan and Jason Little dominating the midfield for the Reds. The Super 12 was the ultimate. There were three Aussie sides, the Queensland Reds, NSW Waratahs and ACT Brumbies, four South African Sides, the Bulls, Stormers / WP, Coastal Sharks (yup) and the Cats. New Zealand, as now, had five, with the Auckland Blues, Canterbury Crusaders, Otago Highlanders, Wellington Hurricanes and Waikato Chiefs.
The standard was almost that of test match rugby and the laws at that time seemed to encourage running, attacking rugby. I’ll never forget Christian Cullen and Tana Umaga slicing through backline after backline leaving red faced defenders in their wake. I’ll never forget how the ACT Brumbies used to build patiently for phase after phase just waiting for the opportunity to unleash Stephan Larkham or Joe Roff on the tryline. I’ll never forget how frustrating it was thinking that our SA sides just weren’t as good as the New Zealanders were, and swearing at Sean Fitzpatrick after he’d gotten away with murder, again! I made a point of watching every game because they were that good. It was just better.
I could name great players of the past all day, but I’m not going to, there is no point. It isn’t that today’s players are any less talented than those of yesteryear, because they are, perhaps more so. The problem with 15 teams isn’t that the players aren’t as good, the problem, especially in Australia, is that they are more thinly spread than the last bit of butter on the last slice of toast at a breakfast function for the obesity club of North America.
It would be alright if the quality in the other three sides remained unchanged, but it hasn’t. The Reds, Waratahs and Brumbies are competitive, but nowhere near as foreboding as they used to be. Yes, the Reds are the defending champions, but last year they were lucky with injuries to key players and they had Quade Cooper in the form of his life. This season they were decimated by injury and just didn’t have the necessary depth to cover. They got smashed three games in a row until their players started coming back. The Lions are dismal, and the Cheetahs, whilst being entertaining, aren’t ever going to compete at the top of the table. They just don’t have the players.
When you have top guys like Beale and o Connor playing for piss poor sides like the Rebels instead of competing with Berrick Barnes or displacing Daniel Halangahu, Tom Carter (who?) and Rob Horne back to the bench where they belong, you take away what made the competition so special in the first place. We want to see the best taking on the best! And we’re not…
It’s like Dale Steyn playing for that awful side in the IPL, it doesn’t matter how good he is; they still lose! So what do we have then, a competition that runs from February until August, where nobody outside of Australia bothers to watch games involving the Rebels, Force and anyone they play? Why? It seems ludicrous. Add a few fireworks and some more dancing girls and there you have it. The Rugby IPL! A watered down tepid affair that nobody is that interested in.
I know I have picked on the Australian sides. I have done that because rugby union is huge in New Zealand and South Africa, but in Australia it has to compete with rugby league and that sport where they wear those ridiculous shorts and vests. To do that their union teams need to be strong and able to not just compete with their rivals from New Zealand and South Africa, but to beat them convincingly, regularly.
But they’re not. It’s the IPL, exciting when the top teams play each other, and when the playoffs come around but yawn inducing for large stretches in between. SANZAR have ruined it…Tweet