WELLINGTON – Outgoing Wellington Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd added his voice to criticism of Super Rugby's unloved conference system as his side face a play-off showdown with Waikato Chiefs.
Echoing All Blacks skipper Kieran Read, Boyd said he would prefer a round-robin system where all teams play each other once, rather than splitting the competition into New Zealand, South African and Australian conferences.
Because conference winners are guaranteed the top three play-off spaces, the Hurricanes can finish no higher than fourth, even though they have more points than the NSW Waratahs and Golden Lions.
It means the Hurricanes and Chiefs, who meet in the final round of the regular season on Friday, are set to finish fourth and fifth, putting them on a collision course in the quarter-finals next week.
Based purely on points, the Hurricanes would have finished second and faced a potentially easier knock-out opponent in the Jaguares, a fact not lost on Boyd.
“Potentially both the Hurricanes and the Chiefs will finish higher than the Waratahs and Lions but don't enjoy the privilege of getting the home play-off,” said Boyd, who is heading to Northampton next season.
“So that's an interesting feature of the competition. I think most pundits would enjoy a straight round-robin and best-man standing gets the job.”
The conference system was introduced in 2011 in a bid to reduce travel and increase the number of local derbies.
But critics say it is too complex and can be unfair -- the ACT Brumbies qualified second last year, even though five teams had better results.
New Zealand officials have also raised concerns about the number of Kiwi derbies, which they say rival Test matches in intensity and take a toll on players.
Read, who is not known for speaking out, said this month that it was an issue that needed to be resolved before Super Rugby considers expanding beyond 15 teams.
“I like the idea of a full round-robin where you play everyone once, but we can't continue with this conference system moving forward,” he said.
“They have to work something out before expansion. A round-robin or something along those lines would be fairer for everyone and result in a better product for the fans who turn up every week.”
Agence France-Presse (AFP)