x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Bigger competitions not always so super for rugby supporters

Expansion has watered down southern hemisphere's top club competition

Cory Jane, centre, of New Zealand scores a try during a 2010 Bledisloe Cup match against Australia in Melbourne. Quinn Rooney / Getty Images
Cory Jane, centre, of New Zealand scores a try during a 2010 Bledisloe Cup match against Australia in Melbourne. Quinn Rooney / Getty Images

If ever evidence were needed that big is not always best, the Super Rugby competition provides it.

It comes to something when the players regard some of the matches as too taxing. Pity that those are the matches the supporters tend to care about more.

“Everyone knows each other, and everyone’s out there to beat each other and get those bragging rights,” Cory Jane, the Hurricanes and New Zealand winger, was quoted as saying about derby fixtures this week. “That’s hard.”

The poor bairns. Super rugby was initially conceived with the intention of pitting the very best against each other in every game. That is what made it so appealing

Now it has become so unwieldy, with the teams watered-down versions of what they once were, the supporters need to get their enjoyment in other ways.

If that means local bragging rights, then fair enough. It is the supporters who matter most, not the players or coaches. With Super rugby as it is, there just is not enough to go around, either in terms of top-class players or, crucially, finances.

Expanding blindly just for expansion’s sake has already pushed Australian rugby to the limit. It is no surprise that the Australian union has announced it is staring at receivership, while it is supporting five franchises.

The tournament’s organisers should ditch the present format and start again. Maybe the two best from South Africa and New Zealand, plus one from Australia, Argentina and Japan? That would be a genuine super league.

pradley@thenational.ae