The Sharks Sharkie

Too Much Rugby – What Is To Be Done (Part 2): Super 15

Written by Austin (The Sharks Sharkie)

Posted in :Original Content, Reader Submissions, Super Rugby on 12 Jul 2011 at 08:46
Tagged with : ,

The 2011 Super 15 tournament has been a major flop amongst the majority of the fans. Even some players, such as 94-test All Black veteran Mils Muliana, have questioned and even challenged the new format. Ironically no one has provided a possible solution to the problem or how SANZAR should proceed to reduce the tournament fixtures. Therefore I have come up with 2 possible variations from the current format, which SANZAR can use to reduce the size of Super 15. For both methods I have explored the possible viewpoints that the players, coaches, SANZAR, team franchises and of course the fans will have. I have also tried to give possible advantages and disadvantages that the possible new format would present to each party involved.

The easiest variation – and possibly the most popular variation from the fan’s point of view – would be for SANZAR to go back to what has worked for a decade-and-a-half, where teams play each other once during the round-robin stage. The top four finishers then compete in semi-finals and then the winners in the final. The current Super 15 has a total of 126 games, so the decrease in games between the 2011 Super 15 and Super 15 Variation 1 would be 14%.

I believe SANZAR and the super rugby franchises would be happy with a 14% decrease in games, as it would not affect the revenue generated via ticket sales, TV audiences, etc., too much. However, there are fewer derbies, which means a greater loss of revenue from South Africa (our derbies attract the most attention and therefore earn the greatest revenue). Furthermore a cut of 18 games may not be enough to assist in fighting player fatigue and prevent the mediocre rugby that has been played in many of the Super Rugby matches this year.

The other option (variation) is to keep the group system of Super 15. However, instead of having an all-South African, New Zealand or Australian group, the groups should be mixed, with a maximum of 2 teams of the same nationality in one group. Inter-group matches are completely cancelled. Teams within a group will play each other twice (home and away). 2 quarterfinals will be played, and then 2 semi-finals and 1 final, just like in the current Super 15 setup.

I find it hard to believe that SANZAR will want to accept a near 50% decrease in games being played per tournament, and I am sure Super 15 franchises will struggle to make ends meet with such a rapid and large decrease in games (and therefore revenue).

Fans will probably have an issue with the qualification system used to decide the composition of the groups, especially if their team is disadvantaged in any way. Furthermore many fans will point out that the tournament is starting to look like the Heineken Cup and that Super Rugby was absolutely fair because every team got to play each other at least once in the old Super 14 format. However with the tournament only set to get bigger and bigger (read EP Kings 2013 and Argentinian franchises in the near future), a group or pool system is just going to have to be adopted.

Since there are 5 SA teams, one group (of the three) will have only 1 South African franchise in it which will mean that that team’s Australasia tour will be 4 weeks long as opposed to the 3 week-long tour of the SA franchises in the other 2 groups.

Super 15 Variation 1 and Super 15 Variation 2 provide two different formats that SANZAR can adopt in place of the current Super 15 format. However, for Super 15 Variation 2, a qualification system will need to be used to decide the composition of the 3 groups.

Ideally SANZAR will want all three groups to be well balanced out, whilst still rewarding the top teams with easier opponents within their groups. My qualification system is based on the final Super 15 standings of the current format. Each group is divided into 5 seeds; the rankings of the teams in each seed, particularly seed 1, will play a major role in deciding which teams occupy the other seeds of each group. Remember that one group cannot have more than 2 teams of the same nationality in it; keep this in mind as I explain the format of qualification. Also keep in mind that Group 1 seed 1 will automatically receive the highest ranked team (log leader), Group 2 seed 1 the second highest ranked team and Group 3 seed 1 the third highest ranked team. There will never be a clash of nationalities using this system because according to the laws of the current Super 15 format there has to be an Australian, South African and New Zealand team (one of each) inside the top 3.

The qualification system will work like this:

Group 1: 1st team (AU); 2nd AU team; 3rd SA/NZ team; 2nd Lowest SA/NZ team; Lowest SA/NZ team

Group 2: 2nd team (SA); 2nd SA team; 3rd AU/NZ team; 2nd Lowest AU/NZ team; Lowest AU/NZ team

Group 3: 3rd team (NZ); 2nd NZ team; 3rd AU/SA team; 2nd Lowest AU/SA team; Lowest AU/SA team

Using the 2011 Super 15 log, the composition of the groups would look like this:

Group 1: Reds (1st); Waratahs (5th); Highlanders (8th); Cheetahs (11th); Lions (14th)

Group 2: Stormers (2nd); Sharks (6th); W Force (12th); Hurricanes (9th); Chiefs (10th)

Group 3: Crusaders (3rd); Blues (4th); Bulls (7th); Brumbies (13th); Rebels (15th)

Note that in Group 1 the teams that fill up seeds 3-5 must be the lowest available ranked because Group 1 contains the log leaders who are rewarded with ‘easier’ games. This rule does play second fiddle though to the laws mentioned above, which explains why Group 2 seeds 4-5 have higher ranked sides than in Group 3 seeds 4-5, even though Group 2’s leaders (The Stormers) finished higher than Group 3’s did.

A possible dilemma that could occur is, for example, the Bulls ended 8th and the Highlanders 7th. This would cause Group 1 seed 3 to have yet another South African franchise, which isn’t allowed, and so both teams would swap groups anyway and the composition of the group would remain as laid out in the above example.

The reason that the 2 top teams from each country are placed inside a single group, is to guarantee that there will at least be two exciting derbies (teams play each other home and away) per country. Of course South African fans will be the ones mainly pleased with this aspect of the competition. Placing a country’s 2 top teams in the same group also guarantees that there should be at least two title competitors within each group (emphasis on the “should”).

The fans of the Highlanders, Force and Bulls will point out that their teams are unfairly treated because they get longer tours of South Africa or in the case of the Bulls, Australasia, yet they ended higher on the log than the Hurricanes, Chiefs, Brumbies, Rebels, Cheetahs and Lions who have shorter tours yet ended lower on the log. However, I think it is unfair to the Reds, who ended top of the log, to be drawn with the Bulls in the same group. No doubt that won’t keep the fans of those three teams quiet, but all-in-all this qualification system is one of the fairest you can get (or is it?).

Games throughout the season will have a lot more riding on them for both sides, especially towards the business end of the season. Teams that are already knocked out towards the end of the season will still have something of good worth to play for – a chance at a better draw for the next season. Of course in some cases there are advantages for ending lower (shorter tours), I’ll leave it to the smart guys at SANZAR to figure out a way of cancelling out those advantages.

The group format also allows for the expansion of the tournament to take place without changing the format much. A fourth group can easily be inserted with another 5 teams, yet the amount of fixtures per term will remain exactly the same thereby completely preventing player fatigue.

Super 15 Variation 1 and Super 15 Variation 2 are very different ideals from each other and from the current Super 15 format. Which one do you prefer or have you already come up with a format which is better than any one of these three?


  • 😯 Morne, you’ve got competition. (that’s a compliment TSS)

    Now let me go and read the article, properly

  • Comment 1, posted at 12.07.11 09:04:52 by Salmonoid Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Salmonoid the Subtle
  • Wow, impressive stuff. I must be honest in that i prefer the old Super 14 system, however it doesn’t cater for expansion and with the possibility of Pacific and Argentinian sides joining, it is inadequate. However getting a fair conference system with regards to travel is also difficult. If anything, I would prefer the Pumas to be based here in SA to give those Australasians longer tours to try even up the travel.

    This year the Crusaders showed that at least some of the travel fatigue is all in the head, but I must agree with John Robbie, you can’t argue with science.

    “smart guys at SANZAR” now there’s a paradox.

  • Comment 2, posted at 12.07.11 09:14:09 by Gaff Reply

  • We argued all year on the fact that the competition is too complicated. This seems to make it more complicated than it is already.

    Bottom line is that all fans want to see their team play all the other teams at least once. My 3rd variation here would be to use your 1st variation where all the teams play the other teams at least once but extend the season to have longer off periods where no one plays any rugby. It gives the players and the fans time to rest and gear up for the next wave.

  • Comment 3, posted at 12.07.11 09:37:02 by Viking Reply
  • I would need to read this again – while it sounds complicated it is obviously very carefully thought through and the argument for pools to enable expansion is definately there. We need to expand rugby to as many as possible to grow the game or suffer a decline in interest and relegation to the ‘backwaters’ of TV and international sport. 🙂

  • Comment 4, posted at 12.07.11 10:14:34 by Caratacus Reply

  • @Salmonoid (Comment 1) : 😀 Seems like my blogs may need to get a little bit shorter 😀

  • Comment 5, posted at 12.07.11 10:44:07 by The Sharks Sharkie Reply
    The Sharks Sharkie
  • @Gaff (Comment 2) :

    Do you think it is fair though for the Pumas? If Argentina want to grow rugby then they need it to be played in their own country!

    The Crusaders are a quality team and I think them beating the Stormers in Cape Town was simply because they were a good team. Of course they felt the effects, just like the Sharks did, but they showed a better team can still win even when plagued by jet lag. I also think the fact that the Stormers are chokers came into play. 😈 😉

    As for the paradox you found… well I had to give them some credit didn’t I? 😈

  • Comment 6, posted at 12.07.11 10:48:53 by The Sharks Sharkie Reply
    The Sharks Sharkie
  • @Viking (Comment 3) : Actually the tournament itself isn’t at all complicated. The only thing that is confusing is the qualification system. Once the pools have been drawn up and the tournament started then everyone will be on the exact same page!

  • Comment 7, posted at 12.07.11 10:50:20 by The Sharks Sharkie Reply
    The Sharks Sharkie
  • @Caratacus (Comment 4) : It is slightly confusing, especially the qualification system, but the format itself is simple enough.

  • Comment 8, posted at 12.07.11 10:51:32 by The Sharks Sharkie Reply
    The Sharks Sharkie
  • @The Sharks Sharkie (Comment 6) : Not sure it is fair, but as we saw in the Vodacom cup with the Pampas XV, it might be better for them as rugby in Argentina is an amateur sport. As we saw with this competition revamp, it’s not always whats best, it’s what’s brings in TV revenue, and a the temptation of a whole new continent watching might be lucrative if they could only reduce the travel there. Enter the Puma’s.

  • Comment 9, posted at 12.07.11 11:24:37 by Gaff Reply

  • I don’t like it, sorry.

    The attraction of Super rugby (in the past) was that your team played everyone else.

    Personally, I have more interest in watching my team play the foreign teams rather than the local one’s, but that’s a criticism of the current format which has mistakenly placed the emphasis on boring derby matches.

    The tournament is due to get so large with the addition of the Kings and perhaps 2 Argentinian teams, that I believe the simplest and easiest way is to break the competition into two separate trophies of 9 teams each with a promotion and relegation system.

    For the moment though, my view is that there is far too much Super rugby – I almost started to lose a bit of interest – not helped by the fact that there was a perceivable decrease in intensity and focus by teams given the length of the season (think of the Sharks’ “it’s a marathon not a sprint” comment and look where that got them 🙄 ). I also don’t like the increased derby games – repetitive and perhaps a little boring and now we are faced with even more derbies in the Currie Cup. This format has also led to a few more one sided results as a result of the inclusion of teams such as the Rebels, Force and Cheetahs in recent years. This will only get worse with more teams to be added to the fray but a promotion / relegation system could solve this to some extent.

    For me, the Super 12 model was ideal. Short, intense, and you played everyone.

    I have never experienced rugby viewing fatigue before, but it definitely feels like I have it, and we have only just finished Super rugby! That can’t be right.
    Less is very much more.

  • Comment 10, posted at 12.07.11 12:22:33 by siorc Reply

    Gold's Member
  • @siorc (Comment 10) : I agree with you in most of your points, as they are the points I was trying to make! :mrgreen:

    And don’t be sorry for not “liking” it, your opinion is your own and is very welcome! 😎

    When you say “I don’t like it” are you referring to the current Super 15, Super 15 variation 1 or Super 15 variation 2 (or perhaps the whole idea of Super 15 no matter the format)? 😕

    I love your idea of having 2 different tournaments! Brilliant idea, wish I could claim it as my own! :mrgreen:

    The elite Super Rugby division could compose of the top 10 or 12 teams. I am in favour of 10 teams, as that would make it a much tighter tournament. Based on the current Super 15 log standing Super 10 would compose of: Reds; Stormers; Crusaders; Blues; Waratahs; Sharks; Bulls; Highlanders; Hurricanes and Chiefs. Wow! 😯 😯 😯 ❗ That would be some Super Rugby tournament!! The only weak teams being the Hurricanes, Chiefs and to some extent the Highlanders (yet they are cabale of springing a couple of surprises) and the rest are champion sides!

    The first division Super Rugby competition can expand and when (or if) it gets to big then a second division can be opened and so on and so forth! Brilliant idea siorc. 🙂

    I know how you feel about fatigue and it just ain’t right! Hopefully something changes though I wouldn’t hold my breath on it… 🙄 🙁

  • Comment 11, posted at 12.07.11 12:44:36 by The Sharks Sharkie Reply
    The Sharks Sharkie
  • @The Sharks Sharkie (Comment 11) : Hi, I meant the 3 pool Heineken Cup type format. I just don’t see it working in the SH context. Anyway, at least we all agree this new format sucks! We have some great alternative suggestions on the table, what chance of SANZAR sitting up and noticing? 🙁 Cheers.

  • Comment 12, posted at 12.07.11 19:04:31 by siorc Reply

    Gold's Member
  • @siorc (Comment 12) : Yeah the one main down about the Hieneken Cup format is the qualifaction system and the fairness. Fans are finding it hard enough that not all the teams are playing each other in the current Super 15 and I can only imagine the outcry if further cuts were made.

    Tomorrow in Part 3 you will see a further 2 more alternative suggestions! Surely the guys at SANZAR must come up with something. If 2 average supporters can come up with a good alternative then surely the guys who are hired for these type of things should be able to do it as well!

  • Comment 13, posted at 12.07.11 21:05:11 by The Sharks Sharkie Reply
    The Sharks Sharkie

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