Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Super Rugby playoff host rights is cuckoo logic

I don't blame the top Lions side for avoiding the massive return travel trip to Argentina the week before they host their quarter-final. Photo / Getty Images
I don't blame the top Lions side for avoiding the massive return travel trip to Argentina the week before they host their quarter-final. Photo / Getty Images

Sanzaar jumped on their piebald pony this week and cantered into rugby writers' email address books.

"Unfortunately," the dispatch said, "there has been conjecture that the hosting criteria for the quarter-finals is unfair, largely based on the exceptional form of the New Zealand teams."

Back up the truck. When the competition directors remodelled themselves as Sanzaar this season and added three teams to the new conference system, there was widespread confusion and criticism.

Adding ill-qualified teams, creating the prospect of horrendous travel schedules and ignoring a round-robin draw were identified as major drawbacks before the 2016 tournament started.

Awarding playoff hosting rights to teams placed down the points list is simply wrong and cuckoo logic.

A statement signed by Sanzaar boss Andy Marinos defends the system and this year's scenarios as a one-off.

On that logic, Super Rugby will be unchanged for the next four years.

That's something to look forward to isn't it?

An extended tournament where teams avoid any New Zealand matches, where every squad has a month's break before being asked to kick-start their programmes and head for the finals.

Then we've got the situation for this final round where the Lions have weighed up the odds and decided to gamble with a second XV travelling to Argentina while their top mob prepares for the finals at home.

I don't blame the top Lions side for avoiding the massive return travel trip to Argentina the week before they host their quarter-final. The tactic may not end in success but the Lions will have a rejuvenated group of players to give them a better chance of making inroads in the finals.

They look like they will face a New Zealand side in the quarters and if the Lions have a fresh squad, home advantage and their loyal fans to host a team which has any edge knocked off them by travel, their rationale makes sense.

It's the format which is skew-whiff because organisers have pandered to audiences in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. So why didn't tournament partners Argentina or Japan get to host a quarter-final?

We can't do round-robin events as there is not enough room on the calendar, organisers say. We need to move into new markets.

Well hello, the Super 12 was a ripper event, all over by June and it looked after the demands on players, meant each game was important and gave teams time to recuperate for later in the year.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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