June 1, 2012
SANZAR CEO Blog: 2012 Super Rugby Round Fifteen
By Greg Peters, SANZAR CEO
Welcome to the final week of the first chapter of 2012 Super Rugby, before we enter uncharted territory and ‘break’ for the June Internationals, where the All Blacks, Springboks and Wallabies will host northern opposition – indeed, the cream of the crop from Super Rugby franchises are those who will don those respective jerseys.
If it were our past edition of the championship, the Super 14, this week would be the semi-finals, yet when we resume competition on June 29th, we have three more regular season rounds, before the three-week Super Rugby Final’s Series begins.
The opening match of the competition when the Blues narrowly lost to the Crusaders in late February seems an age ago, and with a chance to catch our breath, we can reflect on a strong season so far.
TV viewership and match attendances are on the rise across the board, with some audiences and crowds breaking records consistently.
New Zealand is certainly benefitting from the spill off of the Rugby World Cup, Australia’s interest with a local champion and record setting memberships with the Reds are driving their growth, while in South Africa stadiums are sold out, with Loftus putting up the full sign this
There is much satisfaction with how the new judicial process has been streamlined and unparalleled communication between officials, referees, players and coaches are leading to more consistent outcomes.
The white card system has been a useful tool for referees, while by-and-large players have been aware of areas where we need to be strict on; while review and analysis of the officials in the middle is at its highest level.
The “Game we want to see” has also been evident, with the Game Measures implemented by SANZAR pre-season tracking at excellent levels, with first hit scrum engagements, ball in play and offside at ruck offences tracking to a standard never before seen in Super Rugby,
and for that matter international competition.
With Super Rugby temporarily (only just!) aside, we can focus on The Rugby Championship, with the inaugural 2012 tournament venues and timing confirmed this week.
There is much excitement with the evolution of premier international competition, featuring the first, second, third and seventh ranked teams in world rugby.
Argentina will play Italy and France during June which will also serve as a useful road test for our friends at the UAR as they prepare to host the former Tri Nations powers later this year.
The Super Rugby season has been throwing up more surprises as the season progresses, and my stats people reliably tell me that nine teams are well with final’s calculation.
The Reds and Brumbies are engaged in a compelling dogfight for the Australian Conference, but they – like all conferences – will be prone to cannibalisation within one’s own conference, with a heap of local derbies coming up.
This weekend five of the six matches are locals, with the Crusaders and Blues hosting the Highlanders and Chiefs respectively in a couple of classic Northern and Southern knuckle fights on kiwi soil.
With the Reds and Force taking a bye, the only derby sees the Australian Conference leading Brumbies head to Melbourne, while much interest will be on how the Waratahs respond to their worst losing streak in five years against a Hurricanes team that just scored more points in one match than they ever have in history.
And again, it will selection hell for Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer as he watches two South African wars in Johannesburg and Pretoria, with the Sharks and Stormers travelling to play the Lions and the Bulls.
After June wraps up we still have quarter of the season to go, before The Rugby Championship begins.
Catch your breath, and enjoy the action,