Local derbies under fire

Thu, 13 Feb 2014 08:25
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The Super Rugby season begin with two SA derbies when the frequency of local derbies and format of the competition are being questioned.

The new Super Rugby season will begin with two South African derby matches on Saturday at a time when the frequency of local derbies and the size and format of the are being called into question.
 
New Zealand players and coaches have spoken out against a tournament format which throws up regular derby matches which, they say, disadvantage teams in the strongest geographical conferences.
 
The 15-team format of the competition is also in contention to change with South Africa pushing for an expansion and moves underway to extend the tournament beyond its current borders in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
 
All of these moves come while evidence seems to show that fan support for the championships is ebbing.
 
The 2014 tournament begins on Saturday with matches between the Cheetahs and Lions, as well the Sharks and the Bulls.
 
The first full round takes place a week later when six of seven matches are derby contests between Australian, New Zealand and South African teams.
 
Those matches are seen to have extra appeal to fans but players say they can be too physically taxing and coaches say they favour teams in weaker conferences, who get to play more
games against softer opposition.
 
The New Zealand conference, in particular, is seen as being strong across the board whereas the Australian conference contains the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels who are seldom title contenders. 
 
The first match between New Zealand teams, for example, will pit the two-time defending champion Chiefs against the seven-time champion Crusaders in a match which could involve more than a dozen past or present All Blacks.
 
"I hate playing New Zealand teams twice," Hurricanes and All Blacks winger Cory Jane said this week. 
 
"Everyone knows each other, and everyone's out there to beat each other and get those bragging rights. That's hard."
 
New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew said his organization was aware of feedback from players and coaches against derby matches and that would be considered if the format of the tournament is changed when its current broadcast deal ends next year.
 
Tew said SANZAR was working towards an agreement on what the tournament might look like after 2015 and evidence from this season's competition might influence their thinking.
 
"We're closer but not close enough to give you a definitive position," Tew said. "Will it look like the current competition? It's still too early to say.
 
"Our view is there's room for change and improvement and we're just working our way through that."
 
Tew said the fan appeal and toll on players from derby matches would be considered.
 
"We've had a pretty consistent message from the players," he said. 
 
"Not surprisingly the fans love them.
 
"Some analysis the teams have done show we've probably migrated some of the fans away from other games and into those [derbies]. We haven't actually increased the number of people watching just moved their chairs. That's a bit of an issue."
 
Tew said a new-look Super Rugby competition might include a sixth team from South Africa and consideration was being given to aincluding teams from Argentina, Japan or the Pacific Islands.
 
"In the end there will have to be compromise," he said. "We would like the new competition to be better than the current one, otherwise there's no point in doing it.
 
"We're really conscious of not asking our players to do more than we're already asking and preferably a bit less. There are pressure points and the home derbies is one of them."
 
Fan support for this year's tournament may influence any future changes to its format. 
 
While crowd numbers are still generally strong in South Africa, they have waned in both New Zealand and Australia. 
 
A season which runs from February to August, with a break in June for test matches, is seen by some to tax fans' levels of interest.
 
The quality of matches and the strengths of each regional conference this season may determine if and where expansion takes place.
 
Source: AP
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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Thu, 23 February 2017
Rebels v Blues 08h45 Melbourne
Fri, 24 February 2017
Highlanders v Chiefs 06h35 Dunedin
Reds v Sharks 09h00 Brisbane
Harlequins v Leicester Tigers 17h45 Twickenham Stoop
Edinburgh v Cardiff Blues 19h05 Myreside
Dragons v Leinster 19h30 Rodney Parade
Munster v Scarlets 19h35 Thomond Park
Sat, 25 February 2017
Sunwolves v Hurricanes 04h15 Tokyo
Crusaders v Brumbies 06h35 Christchurch
Waratahs v Force 08h45 Allianz Park
Saracens v Sale Sharks 12h45 Allianz Park
Exeter Chiefs v Newcastle Falcons 13h00 Sandy Park
Northampton Saints v Worcester Warriors 13h00 Franklin's Gardens
Cheetahs v Lions 13h05 Bloemfontein
Scotland v Wales 14h25 BT Murrayfield
Kings v Jaguares 15h15 Port Elizabeth
Ireland v France 16h50 Aviva Stadium
Stormers v Bulls 17h30 Cape Town
Sun, 26 February 2017
Bristol v Bath 11h00 Ashton Gate
Treviso v Connacht 12h30 Stadio Comunale di Monigo
Wasps v Gloucester 12h30 Ricoh Arena
Zebre v Ulster 12h30 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Ospreys v Glasgow Warriors 13h05 Liberty Stadium
England v Italy 15h00 Twickenham Stadium
Mon, 27 February 2017
UCT-Ikeys v Maties 14h45 Cape Town
Rhodes v Fort Hare 16h30 Grahamstown
CUT-Ixias v UJ 16h30 Bloemfontein
UWC v TUT 16h30 Cape Town
UP-Tuks v Wits 16h30 Pretoria
CPUT v UKZN-Impi 16h30 Cape Town
Shimlas v NWU-Pukke 17h00 Bloemfontein
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Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Brumbies 15 10 0 5 43
Waratahs 15 8 0 7 40
Rebels 15 7 0 8 31
Reds 15 3 1 11 17
Force 15 2 0 13 13
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Hurricanes 15 11 0 4 53
Highlanders 15 11 0 4 52
Chiefs 15 11 0 4 51
Crusaders 15 11 0 4 50
Blues 15 8 1 6 39
Pool SA1
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 15 10 1 4 51
Bulls 15 9 1 5 42
Cheetahs 15 4 0 11 21
Sunwolves 15 1 1 13 9
Pool SA2
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 14 11 0 3 52
Sharks 15 9 1 5 43
Jaguares 14 3 0 11 18
Kings 15 2 0 13 9