Super Rugby cull: Australian Rugby Union stuck in a hole of its own making

The ARU appear to have overlooked the grassroots level of the game.
Scott Barbour

The ARU appear to have overlooked the grassroots level of the game.

SANZAR has made the decision to reduce the number of teams in its fledgling Super Rugby competition from 18 to 15.

Unfortunately they are still persisting with a conference format, half of the reason why Super Rugby has become so maligned.

One of the teams to go will be from Australia and people expect it to be either the Western Force or Melbourne Rebels.

This is unsurprisingly causing major angst across the ditch as players, coaches and fans alike who are from those two regions or have a vested interest in them, have moved quickly to defend their sides from the cull.

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Both the Force and Rebels have indicated they will launch legal action against the ARU if they are forced to leave Super Rugby and everyone can see that things are getting extremely messy in Australia.

The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) are stuck in a hole of their own making.

Back in 2010, former CEO John O'Neill was instrumental in taking Super Rugby down its current path where ridiculous conference formats are used instead of a proper round robin format. He successfully pushed for the inclusion of the Rebels, causing Super Rugby to expand and run deeper into the season than ever before.

Back then the ARU did not have a competition a level below Super Rugby comparable to the Currie Cup in South Africa and the Mitre 10 Cup in New Zealand.

Forcing the Super Rugby competition deeper into the season was a way to compensate for not having a feeder competition a level below.

The Reds and Waratahs might have won a title each since the conferences became a part of Super Rugby, but it's becoming clear now that the decision to throw all their eggs in the Super Rugby basket is harming Australian rugby big time.

They appear to have overlooked the grassroots level of the game - in contrast to what the NZRU have done.

In what could be perceived as a real slap in the face for the ARU however - because SANZAAR are foolishly continuing to use a conference format - they have effectively gone and replaced an Australian team with the Japanese Sunwolves side in the Australian conference, causing even more angst on top of the culling of a team across the ditch.

I don't agree with the Sunwolves being involved in Super Rugby because Japan are not part of SANZAR and SANZAR aren't responsible for growing the game globally. World Rugby are responsible for that.

Japan has a massive money well that SANZAR want to tap into - more than them being intent on growing the game there.

I do have a lot of sympathy for the Australian team that eventually will go. It's not their fault that things have ended up like this, but the competition cannot sustain itself the way it is going.

I hope in a few years' time when the broadcast deal is up for renewal, commonsense prevails and they finally use their brains and return the round robin format to its rightful place as method of choice in Super Rugby.

 - Stuff Nation


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