Quantity v Quality in rugby
I have touched on this subject many times before, but it remains a subject that needs to be discussed.
The Southern Hemisphere is heading into the home stretch of its premier rugby competition, The Vodacom Super Rugby. With three weeks left until the champions are crowned. This normally signals the end of the season in most sports. Not in Southern Hemisphere rugby though. The season still has 4 months left until the last of the year end tour matches are played. We are only about halfway through. Believe it or not, most players has played 22 matches already.
Now starts the local in country competitions. Adding another 8 to 12 games before the end of year tests. That means a player playing in all the possible games he can, will play up to 37 games this season. Most will only play about 25. Still that is a lot. The quality of rugby is however not what it used to be. Local derbies are becoming dull and boring. Stadiums are running empty and on Saturday mornings and afternoons, the fans are no longer glued to the screens.
The reason is plain and simple. Due to the money involved in sponsorship, broadcasting rights and so more, it has become a game of quantity instead of quality. As the viewing and supporting public we don’t really care, or most of us atleast. We can select which games to go watch live and which to watch on television. The players are ultimately the ones suffering.
The toll on their bodies are getting just to much. Squads are no longer 30-35 guys. It is now 45-55 guys in a super Rugby franchise and even then teams are running out of players midway through the season. Take the Sharks and Stormers as example. Two top teams finishing outside the top 6 and yet last year they were semi-final and finalists. The reason for their struggles comes down to injuries.
More and more top players down south is heading for Europe and Japan. The reason is not only the financial gain, but also the workload. They can play longer and earn more as they are playing less rugby. The Heineken Cup has 24 teams competing and they play a total of 76 games to determine the champions. Super Rugby has 15 teams yet we play nearly double the amount of games from start to finish. A total of 132 games. The Six nations has 6 teams and play 15 games to determine a winner. Rugby Championship, 4 teams and 12 games later we have a champion.
Yes, rugby is a numbers and money game. It is however also one driven by supporters and fans. Right now the supporters and fans no longer are interested in the day to day games. Over all there might be a bigger profit, but in the long run is it really worth the couple of bucks more? Well honestly, I don’t think so. We are killing the game we love. SANZAR and it’s affiliated unions should really rethink what they are doing and come up with a better solution.
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