Does Super 14 need South Africa?
Russell Barwick, ESPN Sportscenter Australia
May 4, 2009
The Hurricanes' Ma'a Nonu leads the charge in their latest Super 14 victory over The Blues © Getty Images
I really want to know if the Super 14 needs South Africa?
Does anyone in the New Zealand and Australian regions give a hoot? Is the competition better because we see a team formally know as Orange Free State or Northern Bulls or whatever play here as Cheetahs, Sharks, Lions? I don't.
The crowds are down, the games are played in the middle of the night in Australia and early in the morning New Zealand. Sure you could argue their teams have been going OK the past few years but my argument is if they want out let them go.
Here is my exclusive idea for Scrum.com readers about the best way to have a new competition and help save club rugby in New Zealand and Australia as well (and give netball a kick along).
Let's call it the Anzac Trophy.
I mean, both of our countries love Anzac Day and the traditional rivalries between us go way back so let's use that as the basis.
Five teams from Australia and five from New Zealand and whenever the teams play, the curtain raiser is the match of the weekend in club rugby. Let's see some of the young talent on show while we are watching the Super 10 teams.
And further to this - the netball mob should jump on the bandwagon with its competition and program a game the following night in the same city or previous night. That way when a New Zealand rugby team from Auckland plays in Sydney then the netballers should play there the following night. Offer two for price of one ticket promotions or something like that and encourage Kiwis and Aussies to support both when they are in town.
I know Melbourne and Adelaide don't have rugby teams but that's a minor thing. The Anzac Trophy - it's got a nice ring to it don't you think?
Well, another weekend watching the Super 14 and not much changed did it?
I think for the first time this season the top seven teams on the ladder all won. As I predicted a few teams are also eyeing off the end of season trip now the finals are out of reach.
I'm standing by my predictions, and even though NSW won, I still think they will miss out. The pointy end of the season and a few sides above them (four) are playing better football but it may all come down to the final game of the season which is the Bulls v Sharks.
The Waratahs might have the feet up in some airport for a few hours waiting to decide if they fly home, fly to New Zealand, fly to Durban or fly to Pretoria.
The Reds didn't have much luck on Saturday night. Firstly they turned up! Then Berrick Barnes did a groin in the warm-up and then they got flogged by the Brumbies.
The team that really has disappointed this year is the Blues. They always seem to have an unlimited supply of talent but they seem to come up short more often than not. The first half against the Hurricanes Friday night was awful. The game was gone and you could tell they couldn't care less.
I have watched them in the last month or so get beaten by NSW, Qld and the 'Canes and they have been the most ordinary side in all of those games and most of their lot don't deserve to be rewarded with All Blacks jerseys when they come around to handing them out.
And finally one thing that has caught the eye has been the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup. How good were they? But whoever endorsed the shoot-out to win a game of football is a fair dinkum idiot.
I mean in football (soccer) of course it's understandable as it's still guys who kicks goals against the keeper. But in rugby when it comes down to it, it's guys who dont kick goals trying to deliver with a mountain of pressure on them and if one misses he loses the lot!
If a keeper makes a great save in football the argument is a great save not a bad shot at goal.
I would say 100% of players would rather keep tackling and running until some team scores even if it took an hour, than lose a game the way the poor buggers at Cardiff did. Sure, the Blues themselves had a chance to win it, but lets be serious, the winning kick came from a No.8 who was 7th choice to kick.
It was a disgraceful way to win and an even worse way to lose - and here's the killer - the time it took them to work out who was kicking when and whatever chances are someone would've scored.
It's the first time in the competition history that we have gone to a shoot-out and if the giants at the IRB can agree on something then they should agree that the rule needs to be changed and lets just play on.
The first semi-final was also a beauty with Leinster getting over the line against Munster in a bruising contest.. The Aussie contingent played starring roles with Chris Whitaker and Rocky Elsom underlining their status as two of the best imports in the competition. I say imports because O'Driscoll was outstanding - and as for 82,000 people for a club game of rugby - that would gladden the hearts of everybody with a leather patch on his well worn jacket.
Roll on the final May 23 at Murrayfield - which is of course live on ESPN.
Russell Barwick is a presenter for ESPN Sportscenter in Australia