Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Loe: Great but let's keep it Super

Taleni Seu of the Chiefs fends away Israel Dagg and Kieran Read of the Crusaders during the round 15 Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Crusaders. Photo / Getty Images
Taleni Seu of the Chiefs fends away Israel Dagg and Kieran Read of the Crusaders during the round 15 Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Crusaders. Photo / Getty Images

I had the privilege of being in the crowd in Suva on Friday night for the historic match between the Chiefs and Crusaders and I hope it's something we see more of in the future.

I'm not sure about the idea of a Pacific team joining the competition - if they add more teams and dilute the quality of each squad any more they will take the super out of Super Rugby - but I would love to see an annual game played in the Islands.

Locals embraced the event. I arrived at about 6pm - after a slow journey from Nadi helped by a few Fiji Bitters in the back of our mini van - but the place was already packed. Loads of fans had their Chiefs or Crusaders colours on and cheered throughout the warmups and match. The biggest cheers, of course, were reserved for the Fijian players and the atmosphere and enthusiasm for the game was the equal if not better than any Super Rugby match I've been to.

Each village seems to support a different team, often because of where the Fijian which seems to be in each Australasian side comes from. It's part of the reason why I'm not sure Fiji, or Samoa for that matter, would be able to cope with a team in Super Rugby fulltime.

Players are already spread far and wide and, while some would come back to play for a Pacific side, the strength of the side, combined with issues over support and financial viability, are concerns. It's not really working for the Sunwolves and Jaguares and I think the competition is already too big.

One game a year, though, will do so much for rugby in Fiji.

The match itself was intense, despite the wet conditions, and left the Chiefs in a strong position. I expected the Crusaders to be too strong up front and win on Friday but they are now playing catchup.

Home advantage in the playoffs is going to be crucial and the Chiefs will take some beating if they secure that as top qualifiers in the New Zealand Conference. The New Zealand sides are clearly the best in the overall competition but they will find it hard having to trip around the Southern Hemisphere during the playoffs.

It's one of the things that makes the current setup crazy. Not only do the Cheetahs, Bulls, Stormers and Sunwolves not have to play any New Zealand teams this season but South Africa will also have two teams who will secure home playoffs matches even though they don't deserve them. It's nonsense.

A good competition is one in which every team plays the other and they will go further away from that if they add more teams.

I certainly hope we never see another New Zealand franchise added because the New Zealand derbies are the best things about the competition. And the game between the Chiefs and Highlanders should be a cracker.

- Herald on Sunday

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Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Wyllie Loe was a renowned All Black forward prop who plied his trade for the New Zealand national team between 1987 and 1995. Loe was well known by fans and team mates alike as an ‘enforcer’ on the pitch, a player who balanced his abilities with the ball with a tough-tackling prowess and a penchant for physicality. During an outstanding career Richard Loe represented his country of birth in no less than three World Cups, assisting the All Blacks to a famous victory in 1987. Along with fellow team mate and captain Sean Fitzpatrick, Loe formed one of the most formidable forward lines ever to lead the All Blacks. Despite his sometimes overly physical dominance on the pitch, Loe is regarded by former team mates as being an exceptional character and professional. Following retirement from rugby Loe became a sport columnist for the New Zealand Herald, a position he still holds today.

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