New Super format poses big challenges

2011-01-19 00:00

WHILE the Sharks’ John Plumtree believes the new Super Rugby competition will be “more exciting than ever before”, former Bulls’ coach Heyneke Meyer is concerned the demanding nature of the extended format could derail South African teams and players.

The competition extends over 19 weeks and will provide a daunting test for players in the World Cup year.

Sharks head coach Plumtree said that it will be crucial to finish top of the South African conference. The South African franchises meet each other on a home and away basis and the top team advances directly to the semi-finals. They also face four of the five teams in the other two (Australia and New Zealand) conferences for a total of 16 games before the play-offs.

The intense rivalry between South African teams will add to the bruising nature of the competition.

“The derby games will add a new flavour to the series,” Plumtree added, “but the rest of the competition will be much of the same because we have four overseas games.”

He is also happy that the top six teams will now be in title contention instead of the previous four.

The six teams will be the conference winners (guaranteeing each country an interest in the play-offs) and the three next best teams with the highest total number of points. The top two ranked conference winners get a first round bye in the play-offs and meet the winners of the other two games in the semi-finals.

Meyer has reservations about the lengthy competition and said teams have to plan carefully as they head into “the unknown”.

He is also concerned at the toll the demanding competition will take on World Cup players.

“People don’t realise just how tough this competition will be on players. The Super 14 was tough, but to be at your best,week in and out for 19 weeks in a physical battle against the top players in the world, is no easy thing,” Meyer told News24.

“Two things will win this competition — depth and conditioning. But if your planning isn’t spot on, then you will have little chance as well. Unless you get a home quarter-final, the teams that have to travel away in the play-offs have almost have zero chance of winning. If you don’t finish in the top four, then it will be very difficult to progress.”

Winning the South African conference will be the goal and Meyer said franchises may opt to rest players against overseas sides and field full-strength teams against the local opponents to finish top and advance to the semi-finals.

“I feel we have more depth than the Australian sides, but some South African sides don’t have as much depth as others.”

Plumtree said the competition will be far tougher than the Currie Cup.

“It will be bigger, faster with no easy games, no reprieve. It takes a real championship outfit to win Super Rugby and I guess that is why the Bulls and Crusaders have won it so many times.”

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