Australian beleaguered rugby chiefs insist they have not botched their efforts to reduce the country’s Super Rugby presence, despite players calling the saga a “fiasco”. Daily Mail, 18 May 2017
A shambolic situation
By Roger Childs
All rugby people know that the 18 team Super Rugby competition is a mess.
It’s divided into four conferences and the winners of each qualify for the finals.
This is despite the fact that the leader of the Australian Conference ranks only tenth in the overall points standings.
Whereas all five New Zealand teams feature in the top half, the five Australian sides are in the bottom half.
A slim-line competition in 2018?
Back in March at a SANZAAR (South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina Rugby) meeting it was agreed that South Africa would pull two teams out and Australia one. Even though the Sunwolves languish at the bottom of the table, they are safe because Japan is hosting the next World Cup.
However the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) is making a mess of the process of selecting the team to drop out.
The most recent additions to the competition have been the Western Force based in Perth and the Melbourne Rebels. It was hoped that these two franchises would grow the game in these two cities where other winter sports dominate.
In Victoria Australian Rules and league have a big following, especially Rules which dominates the sports pages of The Age and The Herald Sun.
However despite getting imports from New Zealand, South Africa and the Islands, neither team has done consistently well. Currently on the table the Force rank 15th and the Rebels 17th.
Setting up a battle
The Waratahs, Reds and Brumbies have been in the competition from the early days and they have all been Super Rugby title winners. An argument could be made for combining the Brumbies and Waratahs into a single New South Wales team, but neither franchise would have a bar of that.
They have been Australia’s two best teams this season, even though they are well behind all the Kiwi sides.
Unfortunately, instead of making a firm decision, the ARU has said it will be either the Force or the Rebels dropping out.
So the cat fight has started, players are not happy and legal threats have been made. Not a good scene.