Wynne Gray on sport

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Revamping format of Super 15 full of holes

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Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

The more the messier. We're not talking scrums here but whatever guise Super rugby takes in 2016.

Sanzar CEO Greg Peters has confirmed a sixth side from South Africa will be in the revamped series after the next World Cup.

Presumably Peters has been given the green light from the New Zealand, Australian and South African partners to deliver this information.

There has been no word yet about the test window in June being pushed back a month to accommodate a more sensible programme while Peters is talking about more teams for the next version of Super rugby.

No one in New Zealand, least of all the players, want to start any earlier than late February and only a blinkered few want any more competition interruptus.

Even if tests are shifted to July, the NZRU believes the Super rugby window has 18 weeks to sort out their series - round robin games and finals.

It is a tight space and if Sanzar are thinking more teams then they must also be thinking two pools and a finals format to fit into that time frame.

Teams from South Africa and Argentina can tangle in one section and New Zealand, Australia, perhaps Japan, USA or the Pacific Islands in the other before a crossover final series.

Holes in that scheme and many others are gruyere-like.

The current conference model guarantees the leader in each pool makes the playoffs and hosts a quarter-final even though they might be inferior to five other teams in the series.

However, composite tournaments require consensus agreements, decisions which never suit each partner totally but commercially, politically, practically and socially hit most of the marks.

Super footy might be the rugby goose which laid the initial golden rubles for players and broadcasters but there are fundamental problems for spectators and TV viewers.

Each nation needs to give to help the series evolve and that is one of the problems for the entrenched partners. It's tough to relinquish those gains after 18 years.

Ideally, New Zealand wants a shorter tournament and less travel. South Africa needs more teams to satisfy political divisions, Supersport wants extra broadcasting revenue, Australia would like to stretch out the Super rugby and test programmes.

One pool of New Zealand and Australian sides and a team based in the Pacific Islands or composed of their players would deliver a vibrant section in our time frame but there would be commercial issues.

What about concepts such as adding sides from Japan or the USA? Politically sharp because of the 2019 World Cup and financially intriguing but an unlikely perpetuating spectacle.

Problems, problems, problems.

Christmas is fast approaching. Dear Santa ...

- NZ Herald

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