Rugby season needs restructure
With the Super Rugby champions crowned, now is the opportune time to seriously rethink the way the global – and southern hemisphere – rugby season is structured.
The current design is detrimental to all professional rugby players plying their trade. Simply put, there are too many matches being played, there is insufficient rest time and no proper off-season.
I believe the current situation is ridiculous and one which is damaging the present and future of our game. Just look at the high number of injuries top players suffered in Super Rugby this season as a case in point.
I believe that if the status quo remains, we will reach a situation where we won’t see the ‘stars’ playing the game anymore. What product would we then be watching?
In my opinion, the season is currently planned the wrong way round. At present, organisers first design competitions and then go in search of suitable dates. I strongly believe the inverse should occur.
The annual rugby season must be divided into three segments: The competition season, the rest season and the pre-season.
The competition season will comprise a maximum of 32 matches per team over an eight-month period.
The rest season will see a one-month break from all rugby, with no training or competition allowed.
The pre-season – over a two-month period – will reserve the last two weeks for pre-season fixtures.
The 32 matches would then be divided into five blocks:
Ten weeks of provincial competition (in SA’s case the Currie Cup). 10 weeks of Super Rugby. Four weeks to accommodate the Rugby Championship fixtures, another four weeks to allow for the June internationals and a further four weeks for end-of-year tours.
The revised South hemisphere season would thus read as follows:
January: Pre-Season – four weeks (no matches)
February: Pre-Season – four weeks (includes warm-up matches in last two weeks)
March: Provincial Season (Currie Cup competition) – four weeks
April: Provincial Season (Currie Cup competition) – four weeks
May: Provincial Season (Currie Cup competition) – four weeks
International teams preparation – two weeks
June: International tours to SA – four weeks
July: Super Rugby – four weeks
August: Super Rugby – four weeks
September: Super Rugby – two weeks
International teams preparation for Rugby Championship – two weeks
October: Rugby Championship – four weeks
(Would play this tournament in a different country each year)
November: International team’s preparation for northern hemisphere tour – one week
Northern hemisphere tests – three weeks
December: Complete rest period
The way the above season is structured builds up nicely from provincial to Super Rugby to International rugby.
Fundamentally this format makes greater sense and is more user-friendly for national coaches to plan their respective seasons.
If the current situation doesn’t change soon, I believe our teams will further haemorrhage many of the world’s top players to competitions where there is more money and less play.
We may even reach a point where rugby embraces an IPL type format, which would subsequently draw all the top players away. As I believe this is not a far-fetched scenario, it’s imperative that a more compact season is designed in order to arrest the game’s current plight.
For me, it makes more sense if our top local professionals play, for example, 10 Currie Cup matches per season with playoffs and finals included and 10 Super Rugby matches, inclusive of playoffs and finals.
Furthermore, my model would see our players compete in four Rugby Championship fixtures with the final featuring first v second on the final log standings.
The June tests and end-of-year tour would comprise eight matches in total. No more than 32 fixtures would represent a fair and manageable workload for our current professionals.
Shorter competitions, fewer matches and more spectators will ultimately ensure increased revenue and safeguard the game’s greatest asset – the players.