Aus idea could replace Vodacom Cup

With the Aussies needing to box clever given their fight with Aussie Rules and League, Tank Lanning reckons a new curtain raiser innovation of theirs might well work here in SA …

So the Aussies are doing OK in Super Rugby this year says Tank in his column this week … Yes, they are a round ahead of everyone else because of the Lions tour, but the Brumbies top the log and the Reds would be in the top three were it not for the “Let’s give everyone a turn” rule that sees one team from each country having to be represented in the top three.

And the form team of the tournament, built around probably the best scrumming pack, which in itself is quite extraordinary for an Aussie side, are the Waratahs …

I think Jake White has been nothing short of inspirational for the Brumbies, instilling not only a rock solid defence and kicking game that SA sides are known for, but also a sense of purpose and being amongst the players. But quite clearly the once in a lifetime opportunity of playing against the Lions has lifted every Australian player.

Next to the World Cup, getting a chance to play for against the Lions is perhaps the pinnacle of the sport. And with the somewhat old fashioned (sadly) midweek game always forming part of the tour, it really is a very special rugby tradition.

So in the face of that tradition, it was interesting to see Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver looking to radically change second tier rugby Down Under …

Presented at an IRB meeting in Dublin this week, the Aussies are looking to introduce a one-hour game of rugby to be played as a curtain raiser to Super Rugby matches that will feature three law changes designed at creating a fast-paced game based around clever  running rugby.

The game would consist of 25-minute halves, would not allow penalty goals, and have five-minute yellow cards (or until the opposition score) for infringements in your own half. Pulver told ESPN that broadcast executives have shown an interest in the concept as they look to relaunch rugby in Australia.

Which speaks to the challenge that Rugby Union faces in Australia. Coming a distant third to both Rugby League and Aussie Rules, both in terms of participation, and popularity, Union needs to be innovative in it’s fight for players, newspaper space, and TV money.

Just imagine how good the Aussies could be if they had access to the Footy and League players! Isreal Folau is but a single example of what that landscape would look like!

Cleverly, Pulver also seemed very aware of their club rugby scene, not wanting this curtain raiser innovation to kill it off. They would look at deferring club rugby to start in May, positioning this new game at the front end of Super Rugby, aiming to build squad depth for the franchises, and potentially linking into Sevens programs.

We might have given them a built in Currie Cup via the new Super Rugby format, but this is a pretty damn smart idea that will build on the momentum they have quite clearly generated this year.

With the elevation of club rugby in South Africa via the Community and Varsity Cups, it might be quite fun to see the Vodacom Cup replaced by something along these lines.


  1. In an overloaded Super Rugby environment with dwindling attendances at most venues, will all this tinkering actually work? Curtain raisers. Who will watch them? The Coke and hot dog vendors and the seat ushers? If they aren’t televised, how will this version of the game ever grow a wider audience? More rules for a watching public to absorb who are already confused by scrum penalties and refereeing inconsistencies. We might be better served by introducing rugby league instead. Just a thought.

  2. The yellow card 5 minutes or till the opposition scores is basically an idea taken from NFL Ice Hockey where the guy goes to the box for any penalty and his team plays shorthanded and, to be honest, it is a pretty decent deterrant to infringing in rugby. If you have a team infringing time and time again in their 22 then eventually they’ll be down to 10 players and the opposition will score.

    As said in the article, the Aussies want a to create a fast paced game using this idea but that idea is flawed. Instead, it’ll create a game with more lineout mauls. Think about it. You get a penalty anywhere in the opposition half that you can’t kick at poles. Therefore the safest option is kick for the corner and maul (since any infringement for pulling the maul down means the opposition lose another player). So you’re almost guaranteed a try as long as you don’t stuff it up yourself.

    That said, you get a penalty in your own half and as long as you have a lineout in the opposition’s half from the ensuing kick, you maul, get a penalty while they lose another player and repeat until you either walk to the tryline or mess up your lineout.

    Net result is the Aussies will then ban the maul …

    1. Shot for the comment, and the observation is an astute one. Much like in the Varsity Cup where a penalty is worth only 2 points, it’s become a maul fest. Not sure if you have read any of my previous missives, but I am no fan of the rolling maul as I see it as legalised obstruction, so I for one, would not mind seeing it go. Ot at least give the opposition a fair chance of collapsing it, or perhaps ban it from less than 10m out?

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