The much maligned Pro12 competition may come in for plenty of flak, but could Super Rugby be an even more embarrassing mess?
The Pro12 has come in for plenty of criticism during its time, with claims that teams didn’t take it seriously whilst the top clubs were guaranteed entry into the Heineken Cup, and concerns over the standard of competition provided by the Italian teams and a few of the Welsh, Irish and Scottish sides.
Whilst to some extent many of these concerns still remain about the Pro12, it appears at least to be a more competitive product than the current Super Rugby competition where a quick glance at the standings shows that of the 18 teams involved, all four of the top teams come from New Zealand.
Even worse is the fact that the bottom ranked New Zealand team (The Blues), are currently on an equal number of points to the Australian conference leaders (The Brumbies). The new format however hugely favours the Australasian groups as the Brumbies would take a spot in the knockout stages over the Sharks who currently have more points but would not qualify as only one runner-up makes it through from the South African groups.
This means that if the competition were to finish today, there would be four teams from New Zealand, one from Australia, and three from South Africa. However, even if the Blues were to win their game in hand (and potentially ensure all of Super Rugby’s top five sides are from New Zealand, they would have no way of making it into the playoffs. This current format means that there is a good chance that some of the top performing sides in the competition won’t even make the knockout rounds as a result of the conference format.
Possibly even worse are the dismal performances of Super Rugby’s newcomers. If the Italian sides are considered an embarrassment to the Pro12, the measly four victories in 27 attempts between the three new Super Rugby sides equates to less than a 15% win ratio. This means that the Sunwolves, Kings and Jaguares have a worse win ratio so far this season than the Pro12’s two Italian sides (18%).
Whilst there’s no doubting that the rugby on show from the top New Zealand sides is of the highest quality, Super Rugby can hardly claim to showcase the best quality club rugby on the planet when the differences between the top and bottom sides are so great, especially when all the top sides are from the one conference. This means we could well find the knockout rounds diluted by teams who are in because of the ridiculous format rather than on merit.