The Sharks Sharkie

Too Much Rugby – What Is To Be Done (Part 4)

Written by Austin (The Sharks Sharkie)

Posted in :Currie Cup, Original Content, Reader Submissions, Super Rugby on 14 Jul 2011 at 07:12
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After three articles of nearly 1500 words each, I will try to keep this one short and sweet… well relatively short and as for the sweet part that’s for you to decide. In my first post the whole concept of ‘too much rugby’ was introduced and discussed. It was concluded that the responsibility of resting players shouldn’t be a responsibility at all. Rather SANZAR should organise less rugby fixtures thereby removing the issue of player fatigue.

In my second post I raised the point that whilst many people were quick to criticise Super 15, not many people had even thought of an alternative, except for going back to Super 14 (which isn’t going to happen as the Rebels won’t give up their franchise rights). Therefore in my second and third posts I came up with several solutions to the Super 15 dilemma, including four possible brand new Super Rugby formats. In this article, I will set Super Rugby aside and discuss the test calendar for the three SANZAR nations – New Zealand, Australia and South Africa (Argentina included from 2012) as well as the Vodacom Cup and Currie Cup.

The shortening of the Test season all depends on the format of Super Rugby that SANZAR will adopt. If they cut the tournament’s length by the very minimum then the Test season – specifically the incoming and outgoing tours – will have to be shortened significantly. However, if SANZAR adapt a Super Rugby format like Super 16 format 2, then the Test season doesn’t actually have to lose very much, and could even gain a couple of fixtures.

The incoming tour should feature 3 to 4 tests, with perhaps the addition of a few midweek tests where the second-stringer Boks can get a chance to show what they can do. If Super 16 format 2 were adapted, the incoming tour could get as long as 5 weeks because Super Rugby would only be an 8 week long competition.

The Four Nations will remain a 6-games-per-team tournament. It will be interesting to see though how SANZAR handle the competition in World Cup years. Shortening it to three tests per side isn’t an option, because two sides will have more home games than the other two. I don’t believe cancelling the Four Nations is a good option either, because it serves as a good fore-runner to the World Cup. I do believe though that it should be held earlier in World Cup years to make way for a recovery gap in between the two competitions. The incoming tour could simply be cancelled, as it was this year, although if Super Rugby barely contracts, then cancelling the incoming tour wouldn’t really help at all to solve the problem. Super Rugby could also be started earlier in the year (late-January) to make space for the Four Nations competition and then the World Cup.

The outgoing tour, like the incoming tour, should feature 3 to 4 tests, with one or two midweek tests against top European club sides and invitational XVs (e.g. Barbarians) to help breed the young Bok players. If Super Rugby was dramatically shortened then the outgoing tour could be a long 5 to 6 week tour, with test matches against teams like USA and Canada included (to help promote rugby in those regions). Remember that one of the main purposes of the outgoing tour is to give up-and-coming players a chance to shine, and the more tests there are, the more chances there are to do that (especially if some of the tests are against USA and Canada).

Two competitions I haven’t even mentioned yet are the Vodacom Cup and the Currie Cup. Not much has to be said about the Vodacom Cup, except that it must always run parallel to Super Rugby. The smaller Super Rugby gets the more breathing space the Currie Cup receives. The Currie Cup should be scheduled to try and end a few weeks after the Boks have returned from the Four Nations, so that the last few fixtures of the Currie Cup will feature all the Bok stars (which helps to spice the tournament up). If the Super Rugby tournament isn’t shortened much, or at all, then the Currie Cup should become a 6 team competition (in the premier division), as this will help give it some breathing space from Super Rugby. The gap between Super Rugby and the Currie Cup should be ideally about a month as this will give players a chance to recover after a gruelling Super 15 (or 16) season.

As I said in the beginning, the decrease in Test rugby, as well as domestic rugby, all depends on the decrease of Super Rugby. If Super Rugby is decreased by 50%, then the rest of the rugby calendar doesn’t need to lose much at all. However, if Super Rugby is barely reduced, then the Test calendar will find itself getting smaller and the Currie Cup will become a dead plant in the shadow of Super Rugby. SANZAR have some important but tough decisions to make in the near future, the question is will they man-up and make them?

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