Super Rugby has an enormous fix-it job ahead. That much has been clear since this time last year, but just how big and how hard it is going to be to restore credibility is only beginning to be realised.

The problem can essentially be boiled down to one thing - that the gulf between New Zealand's five sides and almost every other team is starting to look unbridgeable.

Certainly, if it can be mended, it won't be quickly as the statistics are trending into dramatic territory.

In 44 cross-conference games last year, New Zealand teams won 85 per cent.


Only seven times did either a South African or Australian side beat one from New Zealand and it only happened twice on New Zealand soil.

So far in 2017, the picture is even more alarming. New Zealand sides have played 22 cross-conference games and won 21.

A win ratio of 85 per cent last year has now jumped to 96 per cent in 2017. But that figure is only the tip of the iceberg.

It's these statistics which have led to a number of significant commercial difficulties. Last week, the Waratahs posted their lowest home crowd in Super Rugby history when just 10,555 people turned up to watch them lose to the Southern Kings.

Compared with last year the Waratahs, historically the best supported Australian side, are looking at a 29 per cent drop in crowd numbers compared with last year.

Broadcast figures so far this year in Australia and South Africa have, according to New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew, "plummeted".

Sanzaar's great hope is a reduction to 15 teams next year and a return to the three conference format used between 2011 and 2015 will increase the intensity of competition.

By running fewer teams, the theory is Australia and South Africa will be able to better pool their resources and see an improvement in basic standards.

But as much as the theory may stack as credible, the reality may be different as standards have slipped so far.

The return to credibility will be a troubled and difficult path for Super Rugby and how much so, could become clear in Canberra tomorrow when the Brumbies host the Blues.

The Blues, for several years now, have been New Zealand's basket case franchise. For a multitude of reasons they have battled to retain players, attract players, hold coaches and get anywhere near fulfilling their potential.

And yet, for all their problems, they have still managed to finish, mostly, near the middle of the pack.

This year, while they again sit bottom of the New Zealand Conference, they are unbeaten against sides from South Africa and Australia.

Their game against the top-placed Brumbies will reveal plenty about the true state of Super Rugby.

If the weakest side in New Zealand can travel to the strongest Australian side's fortress and win, it will be further confirmation of how the game has collapsed on one side of the Tasman and thrived on the other.

It will also set off concerns about when, or even if, an Australian side will defeat one from New Zealand this year.

This will be the 40th encounter between New Zealand and Australian teams since expansion and so far the latter have only three wins to show for their endeavour.

The Blues, desperate for competition points to stay in playoff contention, know that whatever recent history says, they are in for a torrid battle.

"They have got tough forwards," says wing Matt Duffie who spent the early part of his career playing for the Melbourne Storm and understands the Australian sporting psyche.

"That is probably our main challenge. It is going to be a battle of the forwards, I suppose. They love the lineout drive and they are good over the ball when defending. We are going to have be on our game and get to the rucks quickly."

By the numbers

* 0 - Australian wins in New Zealand since the competition expanded in 2016.
* 0 - Australian wins against New Zealand teams anywhere in 2017.
* 0 - Wins for South African sides on New Zealand soil in 2017.
* 8 - Times this season alone New Zealand sides have scored more than 50 points in cross-conference games.
* 39 - The Melbourne Rebels' average losing margin against New Zealand sides this year.
* 52 - Combined total competition points for Australian sides, compared to the combined total of 150 points secured by Kiwi sides.
* 57 - Points conceded by the Stormers in their last two games in New Zealand.
* 555 - New Zealand sides' combined total points differential. Australian sides have a combined points differential of -368.