A ‘Pyrrhic victory’ by its definition “is a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat.”

The definition goes on to say that “someone who wins a Pyrrhic victory has also taken a heavy toll that negates any true sense of achievement.”

For all of SANZAAR’s bleating about growing and explicating the game in the Southern Hemisphere, they have left Super Rugby in a perilous state.

The not-so-super Super Rugby season begins earnestly on 15 February – yes, rugby is now a summer sport – and while this year’s competition will be slightly less truncated given it’s a World Cup year there is no break for June Test matches, so fans will have an uninterrupted 21 weeks of gruelling rugby too look forward to..

However, there remains an abundance of issues facing SANZAAR’s premier Southern Hemisphere rugby competition, which has experienced a steady decline of viewers and attendance over the years, especially considering the outright success of the Super 12.

The most glaring and obvious flaws relate to not only a three-conference format, whereby a conference winner has immediate access to the play-offs with home ground advantage. SANZAAR’s obsession with local derbies, particularly in New Zealand and South Africa, have lost their appeal, and the physical toll it exacts on the players is tantamount to torture with no true concern for player welfare.

The paradoxical nature of this is conference system is that at times the Australian and South African conference winners often have had less overall points than the second and third placed New Zealand teams in their conference. Thus there is no reward for certain teams that have earned the right to be in play-off contention on merit due to their superior performances and overall log points throughout the regular season.

This lends itself to the decline of the integrity of the competition, and without integrity it becomes farcical as viewers, fans and the like feel they are being given a disservice by SANZAAR due to their utter and colossal greed for television revenue and constant team expansion. More money and more teams seem to be the only currency SANZAAR is willing to listen to. While some common sense unveiled itself by cutting Super Rugby from 18 to 15 teams, which was certainly a step in the right direction, since then it is quite frankly become a shell of the competition it used to be.

While a franchise will not play against only two teams, the integrity is once again cast aside and the title feels a little hollow and misguided as how can you be crowned champions when you don’t play against every other team? SANZAAR have been so infatuated with what they perceive is best for Super Rugby that they have been incompetently complacent in mapping out a proper structure for the game going forward in the Southern Hemisphere. They had no idea that with the Super 12 they had the goose that laid the golden eggs.

SANZAAR simply see new teams, areas for expansion and more TV revenue to fill their coffers not the players, yet they have seen it before what occurs with ploughing head first into expansion without due diligence, simply ask the Cheetahs, Kings and Western Force franchises.

The inclusion of teams such as the Sunwolves without a real recruitment strategy or decent enough player pool to select from is a hard pill to swallow, especially considering the player talent already in existence in Fiji, Tonga and Samoa, but these island nations don’t have what SANZAAR crave – money.  The Jagaures have at least fared better in terms of results and Argentina are in the Rugby Championship on merit and that has been good for the growth of the game. However the Japanese franchise have been the competition’s whipping boys and their player roster is based on journeyman players looking for a payday. There’s also a lack of genuine Japanese youngsters being promoted from academies or schools into the franchise.

Yes, the Sunwolves have had some exceptional victories over the Bulls and Stormers recently, and kudos to them for that, but they are there based on financial gain for SANZAAR not merit.

It is as obvious as putting lipstick on a pig – it’s still a pig.


Written by Brandon Going