Super Rugby format slammed as unfair

SYDNEY • Super Rugby's draw and play-offs format are creating an uneven playing field, with South African teams favoured due to the nature of the conference system, according to Waikato Chiefs coach Dave Rennie.

The Chiefs were hammered 45-25 by the New South Wales Waratahs on Friday to put Rennie's table-topping side under pressure to try to win the New Zealand conference and secure home advantage throughout the play-offs.

"There's going to be four quarter-finals and two of them are going to be in Africa," Rennie said. "Considering they've got six teams and half of those games are going to be there... I guess they put a lot of money into it, so that's the way it is.

"In the end, we've known about the competition. It is what it is. It means if you don't win your conference, you're travelling."

The governing body introduced three country-specific conferences to the competition in 2011 when it expanded to 15 sides, five in each of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

That allowed for at least one side from each country to make the six-team play-offs at the end of the season.

This year, however, the competition expanded to 18 teams to incorporate a sixth South African side, the Kings, and introduced two new teams in Argentina and Japan, both joining an eight-team African group split into two conferences.

Based on total points, New Zealand sides occupy the top-four spots after games on Friday but, according to the competition rules, the Chiefs (42) would be ranked first, the Canterbury Crusaders (41) would be fifth, Wellington Hurricanes (40) sixth and Otago Highlanders (38) seventh.

The Brumbies, as the leaders of the Australian conference, would be ranked third on 34 points, while the Lions (37) would qualify second with the Bulls (32) fourth as the respective leaders of the two African groups.

South Africa's Sharks, who are in the same conference as the Lions, would take the eighth and final spot on 35 points.

The top four sides earn home advantage for the play-offs.

The draw also ensures that teams do not play each other, with the Bulls and Stormers (32 points) not meeting any New Zealand side.

Rennie felt this was unfair as he preferred a straight round-robin format between 16 teams.

Yesterday, the Singapore co-based Sunwolves lost 5-66 to the Brumbies, who will head into next month's international break on top of the Australian conference.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 29, 2016, with the headline 'Super Rugby format slammed as unfair'. Print Edition | Subscribe