So if the Stormers go down to the Sharks on Saturday and the Crusaders beat Brumbies with a bonus point, the Stormers would end 7th on the log, behind the Crusaders, yet get a home quarter final the next week while the Christchurch boys tanned a few chops after being knocked out the tournament!
One of the great things about sport is the contest, be it a top of the table clash, or a David v Goliath opportunity between the top and bottom placed sides. As long as they take place on a level playing field? Take the fairness out of a contest, and how different is it to match fixing?
There is not much fair about Super Rugby given the brutal travel schedule the South African sides have to endure and dismal state of the Rand compared to the Aussie and Kiwi dollars, so perhaps getting a little help elsewhere does level the playing field.
But manipulating the log to try and retain interest from the three participating countries is just plain wrong.
Like so much else about professional sport, it’s of course all about the money. The TV companies in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand pay top dollar for the rights to this tournament, and demand content involving at least one team from their country for as long as possible.
And with TV money easily trumping gate money, not even the unions are going to fight this one. But apart from being unfair on unions and players, whose careers depend on performances in big games, it just feels wrong. As a fan I feel robbed of what could have been an exciting final weekend of matches, and robbed of seeing the best teams in the tournament fight it out for the trophy.
Perhaps the Stormers deserve to be up there fighting for second spot on the log, though? Strip the tournament of its bonus points and the log would look like this:
Hurricanes - 52 (minus 10 bonus points)
Stormers - 42 (minus 3)
Waratahs - 40 (minus 7)
Chiefs - 40 (minus 8)
Highlanders - 40 (minus 8)
Lions - 38 (minus 4)
Brumbies - 36 (minus 11)
Crusaders - 32 (minus 9)
So while the Waratahs, Chiefs and Highlanders would be a real threat to the Stormers’ second spot on the log, a win against the Sharks would guarantee them a home semi, no matter what. The Crusaders would be out the mix completely, but if they did get past the Brumbies, the Lions would be in the quarterfinals!
So are we being robbed of our rightful place in Super Rugby?
Not on your Nelly! Super Rugby is not Test rugby, and it’s certainly not Six Nations rugby. It’s a tournament that encourages attacking rugby by rewarding tries, and keeps losing sides interested in the game by rewarding close defeats.
The fact that our 5 sides have the fewest bonus points (the Sharks and Cheetahs have 5, while most of the Bulls’ 9 come from close defeats) speaks to the fact that we have not truly embraced what Super Rugby is all about.
We are by nature a conservative nation, hence us being very competitive at the more defensive and physical Test level, but just cannot seem to break the shackles one level below. Something the Kiwis and Aussies (to a lesser extent) do so well.