NZ Rugby World


- jim@nzrugbywor­

It’s no one’s fault, but Super Rugby is an absolute shambles thanks to covid-19 and bearing the brunt are newbies, Moana Pasifika, who, at the time of writing, have had three games reschedule­d.

Two were because they were smashed by the virus, the third came after it hit the Hurricanes. Incredibly, Moana, who were on the back foot in their first year, have picked up a win against the Hurricanes, and are far from just making up the numbers in this revamped competitio­n. There is little anyone could have done about this mess given the rules around covid, isolation and return to play, but it is still an unmitigate­d disaster.

Fans have no idea what is going on and because they can’t be at games, are more disconnect­ed than ever before.

If Super Rugby is to remain relevant then urgent remedial work needs to be done.

Getting fans back into stadiums will help and it is poor that rugby (and other codes) have been so restricted while the women’s Cricket World Cup hasn’t.

It smacks of favouritis­m with the government having invested in the tournament and keen to showcase it internatio­nally. It’s hardly a level playing field.

Super Clubs also need to be unshackled by New Zealand Rugby and, perhaps more importantl­y, the Players Associatio­n so they can ramp up the hype around their teams and star players.

There is a strong resistance to allowing any one player to be seen as better or more marketable than another. The Players Associatio­n has tight rules around promotiona­l work where three players have to feature together.

It’s egalitaria­n but it’s also archaic. Some players are genuine super stars and the Super club, as well as the All Blacks, need to be free to market them as such.

Blues No10 shirts with Barrett emblazoned across the back should be flying off shelves, as should shirts with RTS, Savea, and Mo’unga.

Instead, one club told me they get about $8000 a year in royalties from NZR for apparel sales.

Yet New Zealand teenagers are happy to pay for the latest Le Bron singlet or Messi shirt, so the market is there, rugby just needs to inveigle its way in.

Rugby has never been more firmly on the cusp of losing its status as our national sport. Somehow it needs to engage with teenagers if not as players, then at the very least as fans.

Super stars and rivalries help and in regards to the latter, losing South Africa to the Six Nations in 2026 would be a disaster. The good news is New Zealand Rugby has four years to convince South Africa to stay, but there is a lot of water to flow under that fractured bridge.

The fan experience at stadiums needs an overhaul too. One easy fix is to link the referee to the stadium’s sound system so his (or her) calls are known to those who have paid to be there. It’s ridiculous in this modern world that 50,000 people could be at Eden Park for an All Blacks test and the majority have no idea what the referee has ruled.

And those involved in rugby need to realise there is a lot more to the sport than what happens on the field. Take a look at basketball and football, and the huge interest in trades and transfers, who is heading where and why. The same could be true of rugby, but we get some unsmiling CEO telling us - “I only discuss players who are contracted to [and you can fill in every Super club]”. It’s so amateur and does nothing to keep interest in the sport bubbling away.

I ALWAYS SAY I VALUE YOUR FEEDBACK AND IT’S TRUE, EVEN WHEN I STUFF UP AND A FAIR FEW OF YOU POINT IT OUT. Somehow we got the forwards for the Crusaders and Moana Pasifika mixed up in the last issue. Sorry about that.

But please keep the feedback coming. There’s plenty to react to in this issue. Who would you have at second five for the All Blacks, and why? What would you do to bring fans back to the game? How worried are you about South Africa possibly ditching the Rugby Championsh­ip for the Six Nations? And much more.

I hope you enjoy reading this issue, and I hope to hear from you.

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