Crusaders boss calls for Sanzaar to focus more on Super Rugby issues

Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach.

Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach.

Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach has called for Sanzaar to give Super Rugby more time of day. 

His call follows on the heels of a plea by Waratahs boss Andrew Hore, who on Wednesday demanded a louder voice for Australian Super Rugby clubs on the future of the 18-team competition.

While Riach was content with the opportunities the Crusaders were given to report to New Zealand Rugby (NZR) regarding the competition, he believes a "greater focus" for Super Rugby at Sanzaar would benefit both the governing body and the competition.

At times, the Super Rugby schedule was grueling for NZ teams.

At times, the Super Rugby schedule was grueling for NZ teams.

"Sanzaar could benefit from a greater Super Rugby voice in some sort of formal fashion," Riach said.

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"We would support that and have believed that for sometime. That might be someone on the board or it might be a separate Super Rugby committee."

The Highlanders' Roger Clark is fine with the status quo.

The Highlanders' Roger Clark is fine with the status quo.

As it stands, the Sanzaar executive committee is comprised of the chief executives and chairmen of the four member nations.

"You look at the Sanzaar countries, they've got a lot of issues that are contributing to global issues ... Sanzaar itself has got a lot of stuff on its plate and Super Rugby is only one of them."

Super Rugby, boosted to 18 teams this year, is a complicated beast.

It's unlikely all teams will ever agree on issues such as the competition's controversial conference format, which came under heavy fire from New Zealanders during the season.

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In September, NZR chief executive Steve Tew unsuccessfully proposed a top-eight playoff format which did away with the guaranteed home advantage for the four conference winners; a system that this year forced the Highlanders and Chiefs to travel in week one of the finals despite having more points than the Brumbies and Stormers. 

NZR regularly meets with New Zealand's five franchises so they can provide feedback, and Riach said the idea of a Super Rugby representative on the Sanzaar board, or a separate Super Rugby committee, had been floated. 

"There has been some broad conversations around that and certainly NZR are aware of that, and Sanzaar at a general sense. But it hasn't got to the point of that change being made yet," he said.

"Over the last few years, NZR have listened to the five Super Rugby teams around NZR having an increased focus on Super Rugby. So we've now got someone there that's our relationship manager and we have meetings where NZR board directors attend and listen to our issues."

The NZR then has a chance to raise any Super Rugby matters at Sanzaar meetings. 

"You know the Super Rugby issue will be one of a long list of important agenda times for that Sanzaar meeting. So, somewhere in all of that," Riach said.

"We would like the competition and clubs to benefit on a stronger focus on Super Rugby issues."

However, Riach, a fan of ditching the conference system for a full round-robin format, admitted having a Sanzaar representative or a separate board wouldn't automatically fix everything.

"There is 18 Super Rugby clubs and the 18 clubs don't necessarily see it the same way," he said. "But it's about people understanding your issues and having a way of influencing outcomes."

Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark has no issues with the status quo, and said the Highlanders had "plenty" of opportunities to offer feedback. 

He also pointed out New Zealand Super teams had been to a couple of strategic planning meetings with Sanzaar regarding the future of the competition. 

"At the end of the day, every decision that's made, someone has got to make one," he said. 

 - Stuff


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