As the Super Rugby Season Moves in to the Play Offs We Assess 2015
Well the home and away section of the 2015 Super Rugby Season is over, so it’s time to look at the results and the fall out.
It’s been a pretty poor season all around for Australian sides in the competition. The Force and the Reds fought it out for the wooden spoon, with the Force losing out. Goal kicking percentages were very low amongst Australian kickers.
The Warratahs were no where near as impressive as they were in the previous winning season, but they still finished as the highest ranked Australian side.
The New Zealand sides overall performed best and the South Africans occupied the middle ground
But before we get into individual franchises, let’s take a look at the validity of the final table.
Super Rugby 2015 Final Table
There are several basic flaws with the set up of the competition. First of all that there are 15 sides in the competition, but teams only play 16 games. They play everyone in their own conference twice, home and away, but only four out of the five teams in each of the other conferences and only once. So the final positions could depend on who you get to play and where, or more likely who you don’t.
The whole conference idea does not sit well with me. Is it one competition, or is it three?
Let’s look at the final table. No! Let’s look at two versions of the final table. The first determines who is actually going to play in the knockout rounds, the second displays who really had the best results.
As you can see, the Stormers get to play in the playoffs, even though they were not one of the top six sides. To my mind this is unfair and the only justification I can see, is to keep South African interest in the finals competition. Once again, fiscal interest overrides what is logical and fair.
Performance by Australian Sides
As we said earlier, it was not a good year for Australian sides. Most were hit by injuries, but all underperformed. Both the Reds and Western Force recorded their worst ever set of results in Super Rugby.
The Warratahs blew hot and cold, losing to the bottom finishing Force, both home and away, but still managed to finish at the top of the Australian conference.
The Brumbies were probably the most consistent of the Australian sides, but perhaps suffered most with losing players to long term injuries. Pretty much all of their players have had periods out, and key play maker Matt Toomua has lost most of the season with ankle injuries.
The Reds also missed their fly half, Quade Cooper, for a significant part of the season, but I don’t think he could have saved them from some of the dismal performances that his team mates put in.
Bringing James O’Connor back from France proved fruitless. Not only did he have a long injury period, his form also proved to be very mediocre, compared to his performances prior to his departure for the greener grass of Europe.
What can we say about the Western Force? Only 3 wins from 16 games and little of the fight that we saw in the previous season, which was their best on record. Influential captain Matt Hodgson was out for most of the season and made a big impact when he came back.
But unfortunately the Force just lack the cattle. They are short on star names and the huge promise of Kyle Godwin, that we saw last season, seemed to wane. A major recruitment drive is required in the off season.
New Look 2016 Super Rugby Season
Super Rugby will have a very different look in 2016. Not only are new sides being added from Japan and Argentina, but South Africa have managed to secure yet another berth.
Now I am all for expanding Rugby, but I have grave concerns about how this will work. The travelling will be horrendous, and Japan is in a different hemisphere and really should be aligned with the seasons in the north.
I don’t see any justification for another South African side, while Australia and New Zealand remain with five each.
Of course the playing ranks will be vastly different in 2016 too. There will be a mass exodus of players to Europe and Japan, depending on their abilities, as many players are no longer concerned about being selected for their national sides following the World Cup. So fresh blood will be required and maybe that is a good thing, more so for Australia than anywhere else.
Let’s hope that my concerns are alleviated and we see another healthy competition next year, but in the meantime, bring on the play offs.
By Max Power