- By Kevin McCarthy
Here we go into round 10 or is it 11, or for Moana Pasifika, round 6, of the world’s most useless and farcical rugby competitions that literally no-one is watching.
I might use that word farcical a bit, but not in a nice way. You see I got somewhat triggered by a rugby column which said the structure of super rugby (12 teams, playoffs of eight games) was a farce if it meant the struggling Highlanders could still have a chance of making the finals at this point.
Then I read something else about how wonderful the NRL was because every game was brilliant, and all the fans and players cared about every game, because they all count (at last count, the competition has 16 teams, and eight make the playoffs).
And then the Warriors in the said NRL where every game matters to the players and fans got thumped 70-to-10 or something. Which in rugby is close if not the same as the infamous laying waste of the Waratahs by the Crusaders a decade or so ago.
So, something just broke, and here are some points in no particular order:
You’ve got the 12-team competition you were hankering after. This is the holy grail of when Super Rugby was considered Super. Obviously, the team mix is different and there isn’t no South Africans. But there’s plenty of buzz around the Fijian Drua for starters. Give it time.
Having eight qualifier spots makes eminent sense. It keeps the lower levels of the table still interested, and considering the dominance of the New Zealand teams, that’s pretty necessary. A cursory look at the history of super rugby, and well, just about any professional league, will show that the home advantage remains key at playoff time – so playing for 5th to 8th is hardly a lifeline for losers. But they will eventually lose.
Ipso facto, every game in every round does count, for both the highly and the lowly. The aforesaid Warriors have made a career out of still being in NRL finals contention, which typically means that in the last three or four games of the league, they can make the eighth spot if all results go their way, and Jupiter aligns with Mars. Doesn’t seem to stop people following them.
On those lines, how much should the Canes still be hurting over losing to Moana Pasifika. Well, of course, a lot. It’ll probably be the difference between us securing a home quarter and not. So, every game does count, somewhere in that final reckoning.
Why should the Highlanders be the whipping boys for perceived competition failings? They probably have the weakest squad of the NZ outfits, and yet have run other fancied teams close. They are hardly shipping 50 points a game (though they might this week if things get sassy in Suva).
There are plenty of things to fix with Super Rugby, but poorly judged bandwagon pile-ons don’t to me seem to have any real point other than to fill some column centimetres.
On the plus side, everyone’s going to Canberra – our favourite banana skin venue. Team management will no doubt be concerned that players will stray, lured by the bright lights of Australia’s original sin city. These guys haven’t had much international travel lately, so this really is like going to New York. Make sure Cory Jane packs some spare jandals.
On a more serious note, the Canes had better nail this one. It won’t be easy, but it looms very much as the hinge game of their season. Taking down the Brumbies will give them a shot still at the top four. You see, every game does matter!
And off to the side, Y11 Sport & Media have acquired a 25 per cent share in the Hurricanes and want to take their brand global. I can’t work out what this means, but on the face of it, who doesn’t want to be taken global. Even if its only as far as Canberra.