Wednesday, March 04, 2009
My suspicion is that they will go with a 3 pool type system largely for these sorts of reasons:
The essential weaknesses can't be repaired under the current format.
For one, teams don't play at home often enough, robbing their fans of live action at a reasonable hour and limiting the revenue-gathering potential as well. It has taken four rounds for the Blues to appear at home this year, which has given the season a surreal and distant start for their supporters. Worse still, the South African Cheetahs won't play at home until April 4, in the eighth round of the competition. That alone says this is a competition screaming out for an overhaul.
From a New Zealand point of view, the South African teams in
particular have struggled to forge clear identities, rendering a lot of the competition as deadwood. Whereas in the old days an Aucklander might have taken a reasonable interest in say a clash between Canterbury and Otago, New Zealanders don't give two hoots about a game between the Cheetahs and Reds, or the Force and the Brumbies.
What they should do in my opinion is add a 5th Aussie side (wherever they like and include a Pacific Island side in their competition as well giving them 6 teams. They are the weakest of the 3 playing nations and its never going to be because they have one less Super12/14 side, it's always going to be because more Aussies play league, AFL, football, cricket, swim with sharks etc. They are competitive at international level (yes, I know they have won 2 world cups) but they do not have the record of a South African or All Black side week in and week out because it's not a massive sport in OZ and NEVER will be.
That would mean adding an extra NZ side perhaps in the central North Island somewhere. It's a bit tricky because they could play at New Plymouth, Tauranga or Hawke's Bay so a decision would need to be made there about the venue likely to get the biggest support. The other option would be a Northern side based at North Harbour Stadium and maybe playing a game or two in Whangarei. Hard to know and a lot of population/crowd/economy/facility crunching etc would be needed.
You'd play each side home and away in your region giving 10 games then play perhaps 3 teams from each of the other zones (3 at home and 3 away). On the alternate year you would play the other 3 sides that you hadn't played the year before. That gives you 16 matches best spread over 17 weeks exactly like the NFL. Then have the top 2 from each plus best 2 3rd placed sides.
yes, I know, it gets a bit mickey mouse there but you have to have an even number of teams divided by 4 or else whatever you come up with won't work. Odd numbers don't work, giving teams a week off in round one doesn't work because who gets it off? The top 3 teams overall? Nope, because then how do you get a game for each of them the following week without having 3 matches and 3 winners leaving ummmm, 3 teams to fight it out in a match meant for two.
So for example assume NZ and SA provide 3 sides each and Aussie 2...
The top side in the comp (Blues) gets to play the worst of the 3rd placed sides (Stormers).
The 2nd zone winner (Bulls) plays the other 3rd placed side (Crusaders).
The 3rd of the zone winners (Waratahs) plays the next worst team (Hurricanes) and the best 2nd placed side (Sharks) gets the other match v a fellow 2nd placed side (Brumbies).
Then obviously the higher ranked winners get home advantage over the lower ranked winners.
What will be interesting is if Aussie push for not just a 5th side but also a 6th side. They will be mud if they do that. It's a shame rugby in NZ is stronger than OZ because it would actually be better if we in NZ included a Pacific Island side. It would suit us better with our population base.
But no doubt the proposal will be absolutely bizzarre, involve huge amounts of travel to far flung places and mean we see piss all of the local derbies we always loved.
With the season split into 'two' it would work beautifully if they had 5 zone games then went to the 6 matches home and away mid season after each teams supporters had seen their team 5 times either live or live on tellie (not stupid 5am matches). You go on a 3 match road trip spread over 4 weeks and come home to play your 3 matches at home v overseas teams before the return fixtures for the NZ sides. Or vice versa with 3 at home, 3 on the road and then your last 5 games leading into the playoff series.