Super Rugby needs innovation not saturation

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 16:05 21/02/2014
Southern Kings stndrd
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CELLAR DWELLERS: Luke Watson in action for last season's Super Rugby wooden-spooners, the Southern Kings.

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OPINION: Sanzar must have something up their sleeves because the addition of a sixth South African and an Argentine team are hardly going to light up Super Rugby.

South Africa's claims to a sixth side must be about strong TV audiences at home because they have nothing to do with performance.

The republic has a strong history of producing wooden spoon teams - 13 in 18 years of this competition - and has no proof that it has the depth to justify expansion from within its ranks.

Have the murmurings of South African rugby's flirtations with time zone-friendly Europe had anything to do with appeasing them via an additional team?

And quite why have South Africa, New Zealand and Australia have been handed the job of helping Argentina rugby is more than a little bemusing.

Geographically it makes little sense and coming on top of the Puma's struggles with their three partners at test level over the past two years, the prospect of a competitive provincial side from Argentina looks unlikely unless they can prize some of their stars away from rich European clubs.

Sanzar may have been better to look a little closer to home. Surely, given their nfluence in New Zealand and Australian rugby, the  Pacific Islands are a more natural fit?

As it stands, a 17-team tournament is in the pipeline from 2016 onwards with a new broadcasting deal to be struck next year.

The dynamics of that equation are a little baffling. Currently the Super 15 numbers are too difficult to involve all teams playing each other. 

That's given a lopsided feel to a competition splintered into conferences of varying quality.

It's also quickly raised the ire of New Zealand players who have tired of playing Kiwi teams so often.

The public are probably feeling the same way.

If, as speculation suggests, the next chapter of Super Rugby may involve a trans-Tasman conference, audiences and players will just as quickly tire of endless Australian opposition, especially with the already saturated Bledisloe Cup market.

Could there be an 18th team in the works to give three conferences of six teams?

There has been talk of another New Zealand franchise but, again, our depth simply doesn't justify that. Already the New Zealand talent is spread too wide.

An Asian or Pacific team has greater appeal - Asia for financial and development purposes or the Pacific for talent alone.

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So the statement from Sanzar bosses overnight has done nothing more than tease what the future will hold.

On a rugby calendar already stretched to splitting point and a championship already starting to show its age, the rugby brains need innovation not saturation.

- Fairfax Media

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