Come on, SA, you need to up your Super Rugby game
SA's Super Rugby derbies have never been a consistency guide, but the lack of it is getting a bit much
Never mind having to worry about Superbru (the Super Rugby score prediction game), watching SA’s Super Rugby sides has been dicier than catching a rickety taxi from Johannesburg to Pretoria.
In one week, you get a Sharks side that in perfect rugby conditions can’t get out of first gear and lose to a Bulls unit that only a week before were cleaned out by a Chiefs side that had yet to win a game in the regular season.
On a cold autumn Friday night at Ellis Park, the Sharks suddenly run riot and in one game do everything that eluded them in the preceding weeks in an almost perfect performance against the Lions.
Everything they did against Swys de Bruin’s unfortunate charges flew in the face of the conventionally error-strewn rugby they’ve mastered this season.
Don’t be surprised if they revert to type when they host the Jaguares, nor should you be surprised if the Bulls suddenly rediscover the sense of adventure that heightened everybody’s rugby senses when they play the Reds this weekend.
Don’t even start on the Stormers and their consistently substandard weekly showings. They’re probably the only SA side who have got a modicum of consistency, even if it’s on the wrong end of the spectrum.
However, this is the story of SA’s Super Rugby teams this season and with the tournament now well and truly separating the men from the boys, the maddening inconsistency is something that we should expect from the SA sides.
Except, it makes for terrible viewing and following, with the quality of the rugby leaving a lot to be desired.
The Bulls’ demolition of the Lions away and the Sharks at home were typical “make your percentages” count kind of rugby where the Bulls played all their rugby in the right areas and punished their opponents.
It wasn’t the kind of exhilarating rugby often witnessed in the New Zealand derbies where every game seems to be a cracker-jack box office hit.
The broadcasting money may come from SA but it’s the New Zealand derbies that keep Super Rugby alive.
The sleep-inducing Sharks-Bulls game was the antithesis of what Super Rugby should be and, in some ways, summed up the shallow state of the Southern Hemisphere competition. Directionless, turgid, with nothing to make the game better.
Remember, DStv subscribers pay top dollar to watch all sorts of Super Rugby matches and, unfortunately, the unpalatable SA product is part of the deal.
We’re in a good space that the clashes this weekend are cross-continental, even though that’s no guarantee of them being worth the two hours that one can waste on a Friday and a Saturday.
Results remain crucial to the sustainability of the SA franchises but they also owe their fans a reason that they should devote their hard-earned time.
That currency is like money and we can’t afford to waste it by watching paint dry. Significantly so, it’s the consistency that’s being craved by rugby watchers, and that brings the crowds to the stadiums. With no SA derbies this weekend, it’s the least the SA teams can do.
Be consistently watchable and good or, at worst, be entertaining and still lose. Rugby, after all, has to be a spectacle to compete with other sports.