Field Theory by Hadyn Green


Out with the old

I looked at the new Super 14 ads carefully. Young players, some kids I didn't quite recognise, were running about on a field with some of the rugby greats I'd seen in my youth and some I'd only seen in books and in television specials. Sometimes the effect was done well, in others it felt as though the glory of a former player was being taken away by new talent.

But the main thing I took from the new campaign was: The Super 14 hasn't been around that long.

I mean you can insert new players into old footage as a way of implying that this is some sort of ancient heritage. But those new BNZ logoed uniforms have only just come into being this year. And the previous versions were pretty new. And come to think of it next year it's not going to be the Super 14 anymore.

Here's a quick breakdown: The Super 10 started in 1993 and went for three years; the Super 12 started in 1996 and became the Super 14 in 2006; next year we go to Super 15.

So in the fourteen years that Super Rugby, as it is disgustingly known, has been a separate competition: the teams have had a multitude of uniforms, some of them have changed names, they had the place names dropped and the districts altered, the rules have been changed and then changed back then changed a different way, stadiums have changed names too and a few have been rebuilt, coaches have come and gone, and players move about regularly in the draft or even end up playing in South Africa.

Basically Super Rugby has never felt stable. It always feels like something is going to change, that nothing will settle down. As soon as there is a change already the media, the unions and the fans start talking about what the next alteration will be.

We've had four years with fourteen teams. We may only get one or two years with fifteen before we get another change. We already know that Argentinean players will be allowed in to align with the Tri-Nations re-jigging.

And the changes aren't improvements. In the opening round of this season the new tightening of the laws at the breakdown simply increased the penalty count and brought ire down on the referees.

It's flux; it's chaos; it's ultimately dull rugby. Fans don't invest in a team they think is going to be different the next year, even if it's simply wearing a new uniform. And it's spreading.

The Air New Zealand Cup has had more wardrobe changes than a Lady Gaga concert, the Tri-Nations is awaiting an extra team, and the poor Bledisloe cup is trotted out more than ever (and get's overseas trips now too).

I want to blame the administrators of the game for changing their minds with the tide, but maybe it's us. Maybe we get bored to quickly, we think our ideas are fantastic and should be implemented, our interpretation of the rules should be heeded, and our feedback and pearls of wisdom valued as actual gems.

Nah, it's probably them.

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