JOHANNESBURG - Thank goodness for the Jaguares. At least they came good this season and have brought something different to the Super Rugby quarter-finals lineup. For the rest, it’s sadly the same old teams. Now don’t get me wrong, the teams who’ve qualified to play in the last eight are deserving of their places, and are the best among the 15 ... but that’s the problem.
How on earth can it be right to give eight out of 15 teams a spot in the playoffs. But worse, Super Rugby has become so predictable it’s hardly worth the teams going at each other for five months to determine who plays who this weekend. If we’re honest with ourselves we could all have predicted in February that the Crusaders would finish top, that the Lions would be the best South African team and that the Waratahs would dominate in Australia.
It’s mostly been that way for the last few years and there was no reason to think it would change in one season. And then, we all knew the Hurricanes and Chiefs would be there, and the Highlanders; because they’re simply among the best teams in the competition. We also knew the Sunwolves would struggle - as they’ve done from the word go - and it was always going to be a huge surprise if the Reds, Blues, Bulls or Rebels were going to make it into the playoffs.
At least the Rebels improved from last season, but then they were always going to, having sucked in much of the talent who ran out for the axed Western Force. On that note, the bosses of Sanzaar felt it necessary to cut the Force along with the Cheetahs and Kings after last season - because they felt there were too many teams in the competition and needed greater strength versus strength. Well, how much difference did not having those teams taking part actually make to viewer numbers and excitement? Maybe we’ll find out later when Sanzaar release their competition review.
QUARTER-FINALS: The last eight!
Match draw for the quarter-finals has been released following the conclusion of Week #19, hosting quarter-finals will be the three 3 conference winners @crusadersrugby @LionsRugbyCo @NSWWaratahs and @Hurricanesrugby the best wildcard team pic.twitter.com/BBSgEWHhB3
Other issues that continue to raise eyebrows, and must be of major concern to sponsors and organisers, are the poor attendances at the various grounds, the standard of refereeing, the problems with the TMO and, mainly in South Africa, the continuing trend of players giving up their franchise deals to take up offers in Europe. We’re in the playoffs, with eight teams when it should be four, and the Crusaders sitting right at the top. Who’s going to bet against Scott Robertson’s team going all the way again in 2018? No one.
That’s what’s wrong with Super Rugby ... it’s predictable and the travel factor, by and large, is too big a deal for certain teams to have an even chance when it comes to the quarters, semi-finals and the final. Again, it’s time for a major shake-up of Super Rugby, and it needs to happen now ... or Europe will simply become too hard to ignore for a good number of the franchises.