Pretoria News - - SPORT - WYNONA LOUW

WORLD Rugby re­ally missed the ball with their de­ci­sion to shorten the Hamil­ton and Syd­ney legs of the World Sev­ens Se­ries.

Last year it was an­nounced that the tour­na­ments in New Zealand and Aus­tralia would be trun­cated, with the quar­ter-fi­nal stage re­moved to keep these events to two-day tour­na­ments while ac­com­mo­dat­ing the women’s com­pe­ti­tion. This means that only the top team in each pool pro­gresses to the semi-fi­nals.

That’s great and all. It’s good that women are given the chance to per­form on the cir­cuit, but it shouldn’t come at the ex­pen­sive of the qual­ity of the tour­na­ment. And af­ter the week­end, I can’t help but feel that is ex­actly the case.

Sure, the Bl­itzboks’ dis­ap­point­ing 10th-place fin­ish can­not solely be blamed on the short­ened event but it also went to show how bru­tal the sys­tem is.

Bru­tal can be good, it can cer­tainly add to the ex­cite­ment. But in a game like Sev­ens, where one mis­take can lit­er­ally, and eas­ily, cost you a game. Bru­tal ex­cite­ment shouldn’t be a goal, there is enough of that.

With the other tour­na­ments, teams are al­lowed to get into the swing of things with­out hav­ing to worry that drop­ping a sin­gle game will send them pack­ing. Now that’s ex­actly the case. And it doesn’t work.

Yes, it’s up to the play­ers to get their heads right and switch on right from the start, but such changes – in an Olympic year no less – can­not be what’s best for the game. Teams spend four years pre­par­ing for this, and to have it pos­si­bly in­flu­enced by some­thing like this is ques­tion­able, to say the least.

Also, see­ing the Bl­itzboks and Fiji, two gi­ants of the game, face off in the ninth-place play­off said some­thing. Sure, their poor per­for­mances weren’t the fault of the tour­na­ment struc­ture, but it cer­tainly showed what can hap­pen.

New Zealand, for ex­am­ple, who went on to win their home event, also dropped a game in the pool stages, but the fact that no other team in their group were un­de­feated saved them and they ended up go­ing through to the semis on points dif­fer­ence.

The qual­ity of the tour­na­ment is def­i­nitely af­fected. And it’s hard to be­lieve that World Rugby had no other choice but to take such a dras­tic de­ci­sion.

Player wel­fare is ap­par­ently the rea­son for the change. But would play­ing a three-day tour­na­ment, in Sev­ens, re­ally be so detri­men­tal to that wel­fare? An ex­tra day on which only one game would prob­a­bly be played? I don’t buy it.

Again, ac­com­mo­dat­ing women is def­i­nitely not some­thing that can be faulted but how will these trun­cated tour­na­ments af­fect the game? And by that I’m not just talk­ing about pub­lic in­ter­est (al­though com­ment sec­tions and fan pages have made peo­ple’s feel­ings about these changes per­fectly clear).

It just doesn’t work.

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