The tyranny of distance
To bye or not to bye? That is the question! This coarse version of the famous opening phrase of a scene in a William Shakespeare play aptly describes SANZAR's fixtures predicament.
The Super Rugby season kicked of last weekend, with the Stormers having a bye in the opening week for a second successive season.
It naturally caused a stir in the Western Cape region. Some fans were indignant in their views of the situation.
So this website asked SANZAR CEO Greg Peters about the process that saw them arrive at this juncture, about the difficulties that lead to setting up fixtures and how the byes are allocated.
In this exclusive interview Peters pointed out that there are "numerous factors" that go into determining a professional sporting draw and Super Rugby's situation is further complicated by the "tyranny of distance" - the significant logistical and player welfare issues that it presents.
"Whilst it might appear straightforward to fans it is in fact a very complex process that takes some months to complete," Peters told this website.
"In reality we are working with 21 different stakeholders - three national unions [South Africa, New Zealand and Australia], 15 teams and three broadcasters.
"Each one has their own criteria that results in the complexity when factoring them into the overall draw design principles."
This website posed a series of questions to Peters, hoping to enlighten our readers!
Question: How difficult does the uneven numbers (15 teams) make fixture allocation?
Answer: Our draw is dictated by a number of fundamental factors including the allowance of four weeks for travel to and from South Africa for SA teams, broadcaster requests for five local derbies, stadium blackout dates, team preferences and draw design rules such as one regular season crossing of the Indian Ocean and two byes per team.
Q: Does the conference system aid/complicate fixture allocation?
A: The conference system poses some challenges, but it also offers more flexibility than a round robin format when it comes to devising the draw.
Q: How or who decides which teams get byes in the opening week (given the Stormers have had a bye in Week One last year and this year)?
A: The opening round bye is normally allocated on a rotational basis between the three countries, but with the South Africa Conference starting one week early this year, following a request from SARU due to a scheduling conflict with SA's June inbound dates, one SA team obviously had to have a bye in Round One. This was issued at random to the Stormers.
Q: What is the input of franchises when it comes to fixtures and byes?
A: SANZAR works closely with the National Unions and by extension - the franchises - before finalising the schedule. While teams don't have input into the allocation of byes, they certainly lodge preferences for kick-off times, stadium blackout dates etc. and we do our best to accommodate them where possible.
By Jan de Koning