Front Row Grunt

Rugby … with cauliflower ears

Super Rugby a snore …

Tank Lanning

OK, let’s call a spade a spade … The Super15 this year has been rightfully compared to having one’s eye teeth pulled without the pre-event strawberry tasting injection that makes such a traumatic experience semi bearable …

A few comments posted in a Twitter conversation I was involved in yesterday:

“I think even the Aussies couldn’t care less. This has been the worst Super rugby season”
“Con. System flawed, but more accepted in NZ”
“Anger at the Aussie free ride?”
“Annoyed at each country having a side in top three”

Another Aussie derby?

Vast tracts of empty seats at games bear testament to the disenchantment with the tournament format that sees the log manipulated to give each country a guaranteed top three spot, each team miss out on playing one of the other 15 teams on a pot-luck basis, a 3 week break to allow for Tests to be played, a “Derby” division that sees the Currie Cup severely threatened, and a protracted “Finals finale” …

This in comparison to the Heineken Cup semi finals held on the weekend, where both stadia were filled to the rafters with supporters dressed in team kit, carrying team flags and singing legendary team songs. And they were proper 60 000 seater stadia, not the little club like things that get half filled in New Zealand.

Yes these were semi finals, and I am fairly sure the Super Rugby semi finals will also be well supported (with no guarantees of “House full” signs though), but not with the passion seen in Europe …

Nope, this tournament is flawed, and people are voting with their feet. And it’s not as if the “Killing the golden goose” warnings were not ventured prior to the tournament beginning, but TV money seems to have clouded logic …

Certainly in my group of friends (and they tend not to be chairmen of the local knitting society), school, club and even Vodacom Cup rugby is making for a more entertaining outing. Mates who would never miss a game in the “Good old days” do not even know when their team is playing these days. It’s just more of the same, and the actual rugby is being eclipsed by the sheer volume of it …

And those traumatically dreary Aussie derbies certainly do not help matters …

A bit like advertising becomes wallpaper if you see the same advert too often, so is Super Rugby becoming wallpaper-like. How sad is that?

Bring back the Super12 I say, where every team plays each other, and let teams qualify to play in the next year’s Super Rugby tournament via the Currie Cup …

Author: Tank

Ex WP prop with a fair amount of experience in all things media ...


  1. Fully agree Tank. Four points for a bye is also quite ludicrous.

    I was quite baffled to see Greg Peters defending the format on Boots ‘n All the other night. Surely SANZAR must realize that there’s a problem. He acted like it was the first time anyone had criticized the format.

  2. It’s a good thing that all of us do not agree the free ride of the aussies well yes that sucks but I know exactly when my team is playing and support them every time they do what about SA derby’s I’m sure the Bulls vs Stormer will be a sell out, the point system is not right but the rugby is still good.

  3. Was sent this by email today:

    Rugby according to Ockie Oosthuizen (former Springbok prop)

    It is largely unknown to players and followers of the modern game that rugby started off purely as a contest for forwards in opposition in line-outs, scrums, rucks and mauls. This pitted eight men of statuesque physique, supreme fitness and superior intelligence in packs against one another.

    In those days, the winner was the pack that won the most set pieces. The debasement of the game began when backs were introduced. This occurred because a major problem was where to locate the next scrum or line-out.

    Selecting positions on the ground for these had become a constant source of friction and even violence.

    The problem was resolved by employing forward rejects, men of small stature and limited intelligence, to run aimlessly around within the field of play.

    Following a set piece, the ball would be thrown to one of them, who would establish the next location either by dropping it or by throwing it to another reject for dropping. Very occasionally, a third reject would receive the ball before it would be dropped, and crowds would wildly cheer on these rare occasions. Initially these additional players were entirely disorganized but with the passing of time they adopted set positions.

    For instance, take the half-back. He was usually one of the smallest and least intelligent of the backs whose role was simply to accept the ball from a forward and to pass it on to one of the other rejects who would drop it, providing the new location for the forwards to compete. He could easily (given his general size) have been called a quarter forward or a ball monkey but then tolerance and compassion are the keys to forward play and the present euphemism was decided on.

    The five-eighth plays next to the half-back and his role is essentially the same except that when pressured, he usually panics and kicks the ball.

    Normally, he is somewhat taller and slightly better built than the half-back and hence his name. One-eighth less and he would have been a half-back, three-eighths more and he might well have qualified to become a forward.

    The centres were opportunists who had no expertise but wanted to share in the glamour associated with forward packs. After repeated supplication to the forwards for a role in the game they would be told to get out in the middle of the field and wait for instructions. Thus, when asked where they played, they would reply “in the centre”. And they remain to this day, parasites and scroungers who mostly work as lawyers or used car dealers.

    You may ask, why wingers? The answer is simple. Because these were players who had very little ability and were the lowest in the backline pecking order, they were placed as far away from the ball as possible. Consequently, and because the inside backs were so diligent in their assigned role of dropping the ball whenever they received it, the main contribution to the game made by the winger was not to get involved. Their instructions were to run away as quickly as possible whenever trouble appeared, and to avoid tackles at all costs. The fact that the game was organised so that the wingers didn’t get to touch the ball led to an incessant flow of complaints from them and eventually the apt description “whingers” was applied. Even though the “h” dropped off over the years, the whingeing itself unfortunately has not.

    Lastly, the full-back. This was the position given to the worst handler, the person least able to accept or pass the ball, someone who was always in the way. The name arose because the forwards would understandably become infuriated by the poor play invariably demonstrated by that person, and call out “send that fool back”. He would then be relegated well out of everyone’s way to the rear of the field.

    So there you have it. Let’s return to the glory days of a contest between two packs of eight men of statuesque physique, supreme fitness and superior intelligence. The rest can go off to where they will be happier, playing soccer.



    • I published this on the Grunt a while back. Certainly not written by Okkie ….

  4. I can’t agree more. I did an article a while back on where I compared Heinekin Cup and super Rugby. And based on that I must say Heinekin Cup has a better setup. Super Rugby is getting just to much and the only country really benefiting is Australia as they don’t have a Currie Cup like competition.

  5. Agreed – Super 12 with promotion/relegation will be much better. Might convince me to switch my overpriced DSTV on again :) . The Kings debacle will also then sort itself out – a year with them, then somebody else take over again after promo/rel playoff. Big question will the Fan’s voice ever be loader than the money talking?

  6. Frankly the only reason I am still watching the tournament is the team I support and the fact that I am playing Superbru. Even the NZ derbies are painful.

  7. Must agree with you. Seats at stadiums will continue to get more empty. The format sucks and is responsible for this. It should revert back to the Super 14 format…scrap the Rebels! Better yet, leave the Aussies out completely….they do nothing for the competition!

  8. I agree that the format is wrong and the season will be too long. Only disagreement is that the games themselves are boring, though I’m not even entirely sure that’s what you’re saying.

    Anyway, everyone says it’s all about the broadcast cash and therein lies the problem. These guys (SANZAR) don’t really seem to be astute businessmen and seem a little short-sighted. Short-term cash does not always equal long-term success. Economics 101 right! Structuring this tournament to make it a commercial success and attract a solid and sustainable fan base is really not rocket-science. Tell those boys at SARU to give me a call and I’ll sort out their commercial strategy for them ;)

    • Short term cash gets you elected the next year though … And while being a little flippant, it is an issue in SA, where gravy train type folk worry more about themselves and their pockets than the good of the game …

      You are correct re the actual games being exciting, and there have been plenty of those. So the rugby is not actually bad, it’s the fact that there is just too damn much of it. Eventually even I would get sick of rare rump steak and Black Label if I had it for dinner every night …

  9. There’s really only one Super Rugby tournament that’s still generating interest – It’s SUPERBRU!!!! :)

  10. The website has shown good growth this year and gets almost 700 000 unique users a month. Last year we got around 580-600k a month.

    With that kind of interest you can’t say it is not interesting. Traffic wise NZ traffic is the biggest currently followed by Australia. The UK is next.

    The only region that is complaining about BUT South Africa enjoying the tournament so much?

    With 700k users a month globally following Super Rugby online there is REAL interest in the tournament. The problem is SA only.

    You tell me.

    • Shot for the comment, and well done on a top site. I pop in there quite often.

      South Africans are mad about our rugby, so you could put anything in front of us and we would watch. In front of us at the moment is the Super15, and I have no doubt South African’s are watching. I just get the feeling that interest is waning, and it is my opinion that the format sucks. It seems I am not alone.

      Traffic to a website is not a good indicator as the site could have improved, the marketing and SEO improved, or you could be speaking to a new audience. It is also interesting to see that South African’s do not even make the top 4 in terms of audience size …

      I am told TV numbers have increased, and that is a good indicator, although in SA, SuperSport are milking the hell out of repeat broadcasts, so perhaps it is not comparing like with like. SANZAR like to lead us to believe that stadium numbers are up, but I just cannot believe it, looking at the empty seats …

      • The UK overtook SA last year (before the twickenham match) and it has maintained the growth this year. The website doesn’t exactly measure the success of a tournament you are right but if it was losing interest i doubt the numbers would be growing as strong as we have seen. I don’t know of a bigger rugby site so SANZAR must be doing something right. The SEO is the same but there was a redesign.

        I expect that the UK interest will be even stronger next year as its a British and Irish Lions year and they will want to get familiar with the Aussie players.

        On another note, guys forget the idea of SANZAR agreeing to a reduced tournament. All three countries need as much money from the broadcast deal as they can get to stay alive and reducing the number of matches will reduce the broadcast fee. Cutting 30 matches off the total number of matches will cut a 1/3 off the broadcast deal value and that portion is well over $100 million dollars. It’s just not going to happen.

        The real problem I see with Super Rugby is the way the Kings entry could potentially reduce the standard of rugby. A drop in standard will hurt Super rugby.

        Stay well.

  11. I posted a comment a while back on this site stating that SuperRugby should be split into 2 divisions. Bring back Super 12 and let there be relegation matches in order for the right teams to be in the top flite. Or even better. Let the 3 conferences play derbies first (home & away) and then the top 2 of each conference goes through to play offs and the top 2 of those play the final. Create a shield comp for the rest of the teams. Just a few ideas…