Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Winds of change blowing

Gareth Anscombe celebrates with injured teammate Richard Kahui. Photo / Getty Images
Gareth Anscombe celebrates with injured teammate Richard Kahui. Photo / Getty Images

There's a sense of the Chiefs being on track to be the dominant force in Super Rugby. But there's growing uncertainty as to just what it is they are going to potentially dominate in years to come.

The future of Super Rugby, to put it mildly, is up in the air. Multiple scenarios are being explored on how the competition might look in 2016. South Africa won't negotiate on their desire to have a sixth team: in their minds it's a done deal or no deal.

The Argentines want in. The USA, supported to the hilt by the New Zealand Rugby Union and their key sponsor, AIG, wants in - their national side playing under a different name.

But the Australians feel the future of the game lies in the East and they want to develop stronger ties with Japan and Asia.

The Pacific Islands, probably to no one's surprise, will be ignored - left out in the cold because when these deals are done what's right for the growth of the game often gets confused with what is right for bank balances.

How it all washes up depends on the value Sanzar can command for the broadcast rights and also what the shape of the season looks like in 2016. The June test window is going to be pushed into July and Super Rugby will be played in one continuous block from late February to late June. That much, because it is being driven by the players, has virtually been settled.

The new competition will have to fit into that window and if new teams are going to be added, then new ideas are going to have to be explored, such as a conference for Australian and New Zealand sides that may possibly include a Japanese and or American presence.

The South Africans and Argentines may form a separate conference and maybe the respective winners of each will clash to cap it all off - maybe they won't.

A decision needs to be made before the end of the year because TV types like to know what their future content is going to be.

None of which, however, will have any bearing on the Chiefs' mind-set in the next seven days.

They are in their second consecutive final and their every waking thought between now and next Saturday will be devoted to ensuring they finish what they have started.

"We won't get sucked into that line of thinking," said Chiefs coach Dave Rennie when asked if the Chiefs already had a distinct advantage knowing they didn't have to travel.

"There will be some sentiment around because some of the boys are leaving. It would be easy to get carried away with tonight. But we need to do our talking on the field again next week."

That sentiment Rennie mentioned is likely to be a significant motivator if it can be carefully channelled.

The final will be the last game for Craig Clarke - the inspirational captain who held his own against the country's three best locks last night.

Lelia Masaga, the man who shifted the momentum of the contest when he charged off his wing clean through the middle of a throng to score the first try of the game, is also leaving for Japan. And maybe most emotion will be felt for Richard Kahui - a man whose passion for the Chiefs is almost unparalleled.

A man who has known nothing but bad luck and who would probably hand back his World Cup winner's medal to be on the field this Saturday.

The Chiefs owe it to themselves to ensure they finish off another brilliant campaign with the title their efforts they deserve. It's not just the men leaving who need to be honoured - the men staying have earned that right, too.

- Herald on Sunday

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