We need a season restructure

We need an agreed upon international season, and the players need 4 months off. It is a tricky one to get right, but Tank Lanning ponders a few options in his eNCA.com column.

So which game will deliver the upset this week? This is the theme on Twitter every Thursday as people ponder there SuperBru picks for the weekend.

And rightly so given the results this year. Hurricanes over the Cheetahs in Bloem, Kings over the Highlanders, and that the top two teams in the Kiwi conference, the Chiefs and Blues, only just getting past the Force and Rebels, the bottom two sides in the Aussie conference … This in a single Super Rugby weekend!

As has been the case every weekend this year. The old cliché of “Any team being able to beat any other team on any given day” has quite literally come to fruition! Whether it has been a case of the bottom sides getting better or the top sides getting worse is up for debate, but I would suggest it to be a mixture of the two.

Prudent pre-season purchasing, finite budgets, and basic economic factors such as demand and supply play their part as so called “Fringe” players at one franchise move on to be stars at another. Throw in the most hectic playing schedule in world rugby, a finite pool of players, and Super Rugby is fast becoming about which side suffers the least injuries.

The surprise factor definitely adds to the excitement each weekend, but do we really want rugby to be about who gets the least injuries? Will we actually see the best six Super Rugby sides playing in the finals series?

It seems pretty damn obvious to all except the people handling the purse strings at the IRB and SANZAR that too much rugby is being played, especially down here in the Southern Hemisphere.

It’s no wonder that the head of New Zealand’s Rugby Players Association is suggesting that the All Blacks could make like a South African bus driver and resort to some form of strike action as they press for an integrated international season with fewer matches.

And it is not just an idle threat from some hill billy association … All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has said that a demonstration of player power may be necessary to force the IRB to take steps to reduce demands on top players.

“At the moment when it comes to the global season too many decisions are made around tradition rather than what is right for the athletes,” said Hanson.

Are today’s administrators allowing amateur traditions, perhaps no longer applicable, to influence the modern day commercial beast that rugby has become?

It would be terribly sad to lose all the amateur traditions like the Baa Baas and good old fashioned tours with midweek games (although only the Lions seem to hold onto that these days), but perhaps an entire revamp of the systems, and season, looked at with professional eyes rather than gravy stained blazers, is necessary?

New Zealand players want their season to start later, allowing an established 16 week off-season instead of the current 8 week break. And that makes perfect sense given that both Prof Tim Noakes and Ross Tucker have been calling for it for years.

The break in the Super Rugby season for June Test matches is ridiculous, and should go. That, together with a return to a Super12 or shortened Super Rugby tournament played in pools, could see the Southern Hemisphere season start in April and end in November.

The 4 Nations and 6 Nations could be played in alternate years, allowing for full blown tours in between. But we all know it is easier to monetise a tournament rather than a tour, so that is unlikely to happen.

It is a tricky one to get right, given that the overlaps in seasons are currently April, May, June and November. With neither hemisphere likely to turn rugby into a Summer sport, perhaps April and November are reserved for cross hemisphere tours, leaving May to October for us in the South to structure our season as we see fit?


  1. And now thinking about this even more, perhaps all the above does is swap the “problem month” from the SH to the NH. At the moment we have to handle a June tour in the middle of our domestic season. By swapping it to the month of April, we would get it at the beginning of our season, but they would get it in the middle of theirs … It is not such a simple concept in reality!

  2. Perhaps it will see the emergance of strategy like keeping national players out of Super series competition

    .: National players will only play internationals unless recovering from injury. This could make way for new talents to be uncovered and blooded into the big game.
    By making all unions making law that National eligibility for the top 5 ranked IRB teams have to restrict selection to only local players (much like SA).

    I think something like this would increase player pools. Increase depth of talent. Decrease the potential risk of injury to players due to less rugby, all while still providing the joy of many rugby games throughout the year.

    Just a thought.

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