Andrew Mulligan: Newcomer's guide to Super Rugby

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Don't be concerned if you don't have the foggiest about who will win the 2016 Super Rugby title. Picture / Getty Images
Don't be concerned if you don't have the foggiest about who will win the 2016 Super Rugby title. Picture / Getty Images

To the loyal New Zealand and savvy and knowledgeable Super Rugby reader of this column, I ask for your patience. That's because in the interests of being a welcoming host to the two new Super Rugby countries, Japan and Argentina, I must abandon the interests of the few to serve the many new readers - just as Sanzar have done with expansion.

This column is to give the new fan a few tidbits of what the past 20 seasons of Super Rugby has been like for New Zealand fans.

Hola and konnichiwa to the Jaguares and Sunwolves fans. Here's a brief historical overview of Super Rugby and which teams shaped it.

Once the competition started in 1996, it was all about the Blues as they won title after title which goes, in part, thanks to winger James Kerr for sewing one up in 1997.

That was until the Crusaders turned it around and won seven titles in 10 years.

It was a remarkable period of dominance until they realised that All Blacks peaking twice a year was physically taxing and they dropped off the pace.

They used to be so good, they put 96 points on a Waratahs team in 2002 they were due to meet in the semifinals the following week. The fire cannons that were set off every time a try was scored ran out of gas.

Also, in 2011, the Canterbury earthquakes robbed them of their stadium so they travelled the world and STILL made the final against the Reds - a magnificent feat.

Speaking of Australian teams and the Waratahs - go to YouTube and check out prop Matt Dunning bang over a drop goal from way out to win the game, but deny his team a place in the semifinals. What in any other situation would have been a heroic act was met with despair. Super Rugby has every scenario covered.

The Tahs, as they're known, also won a title in 2014. Just don't ask Crusaders fans how. After that, Google "Matt Dunning body shaping photos".

If you're thinking this is crazy, the Northern Hemisphere is largely dismissive of Super Rugby. It's "frothy rugby" to them but who can forget the memorable 6-0 scoreline between the Highlanders and Crusaders in 2009 when Richie McCaw went off injured and everyone worried about it?

The three other New Zealand teams have won a total of three Super Rugby titles.

The Chiefs won two because they had Sonny Bill Williams and the Highlanders are the current champions after no one said they could do it. The Hurricanes remain title-less but that's because of a blade of grass (and several missed tackles on Elliot Dixon) and the fog the Crusaders engineered to roll in during the 2006 final. That's okay because the Sharks from South Africa have lost four finals without winning a title.

So let's turn to South Africa. They have six teams because they have the most money and can do whatever they want at the bargaining table.

The most famous line about South Africa if you're ringing talkback about the upcoming games is to trot out "the African teams don't travel well", which is true but their away trips ended up being longer than the teams from the other two countries so now we have conferences and groups.

The Bulls have won three titles but that's because you're not allowed to wear oxygen masks when playing at Loftus Versfeld.

The Kings are a new old team in South Africa.

Good luck to you and may all your title dreams come true!

- NZ Herald

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