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Super Rugby: It’s deja vu again [fit heading one deck most likely]

Editorial #: 1491662502

The Chiefs, in black, have been clearly the best team in Super Rugby 2023. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

Editorial #: 1387756799

Sky rugby commentator Justin Marshall switched to watching an NRL game in frustration at watching Super Rugby. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES




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What’s wrong with Super Rugby Pacific?

Where do I start?

Does the fact that ex-All Black and Crusader Justin Marshall, bored with the one-sided nature of his former side’s clash with Moana Pasifika, switched to watch an NRL game sound alarm bells?

Likewise, coaching legend Wayne Smith changed channels midway through the Highlanders-Force game to watch a wildlife documentary in frustration with the dour nature of the encounter marred by a whistle-happy referee suffering from “yellow card fever”. In fairness, though, Smith was also annoyed with the state of the game in general.


At the start of the season, one could almost confidently name the top five teams – the Blues, Brumbies, Chiefs, Crusaders, and Hurricanes, and, you guessed it — those were the top five in 2022.

The Waratahs were sixth last year and again this year and the Reds and Highlanders can replicate the top eight from 2022 with victories in this weekend’s final round. The only hope of throwing a bit of excitement and unpredictability into the playoffs is if the surprise package, Fijian Drua, can beat the Reds in Suva and sneak into the eight. 

Otherwise, it’s the same old with the same four – the Chiefs, Crusaders, Blues, and Brumbies having home advantage for the quarterfinals – yawn, yawn!

But then again, why do eight teams in a 12-team competition qualify? Simple, money, the buck stops there.

In my mind, there is no logic why a team with a losing 5-9 record should even be within a bull’s roar of being in championship contention. I can live with a six-team finals format, with the top two getting the bye for the first round.

But eight is a joke in a competition touted by some as the world’s premier club rugby competition, although the European leagues can probably fairly lay claim to that moniker. 


Of course, there is an imbalance in the draw where the Australian teams and Drua get to play two games against the weaker opponents in the Australian pool, whereas the Kiwi teams must face much sterner opposition twice. 

Add on my general frustration with how the game is played with dull, boring driving mauls, overly pedantic officiating, and the slow nature of stoppages, which are still prevalent despite measures introduced to speed up the game, and my urge to plant myself in front of the screen for 80-plus minutes has diminished.   

I’m not alone in that, with fans staying away in droves, and if you need evidence, just take a look at the mass of empty grey seats at Eden Park tomorrow night when the Blues play the Highlanders in the last round. 

How do leagues such as the NRL and the AFL in Australia and the NBA, NHL, MLB, and NFL in the US get it right with unpredictability from season to season?

Salary caps and drafts are just some of the ways to avoid the same old same old, but I believe our rugby administrators are quite happy to trudge that same old path, so I’m not holding out for any change.

I can only hope for an upset or two to throw the cat among the pigeons in this month’s final series to add some excitement to a quickly fading competition – maybe the Hurricanes or the Drua – now, wouldn’t that be a story?

In the meantime, I’m happy to wander along and enjoy the enthusiasm and energy of grassroots club rugby — without which, we would not have our national winter code.








Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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