Super Rugby Aotearoa was an unmitigated success.
After a three-month period without any matches, New Zealand fans would have likely been happy to gobble up just about any professional rugby – but the NZ-only competition was perhaps the highest quality, most entertaining club footy we’ve been blessed with in recent times.
While the final result was undoubtedly a fair reflection of the competition as a whole, with the Crusaders crowned champions, it did lead to a somewhat anticlimactic finish.
Before a ball had even been kicked in the final round of matches, the Crusaders had built an insurmountable lead at the top of the table, which put a bit of damper on the closing weekend.
That could all change in 2021, with a final one of many changes New Zealand Rugby appear to be considering for next year’s competition.
In a survey sent out to members of the Team All Blacks fan club, respondents were asked to elect their favourite potential changes from a shortlist that are presumably being assessed by NZR.
They range from modifications to the game itself (law changes) to competition restructuring (adding foreign sides, introducing playoffs and/or a final) and changing the match-day experience (at-ground entertainment).
Perhaps the most interesting idea is a mooted all-star break, similar to what major American sports run part-way through their seasons.
This year’s North v South match, played upon Super Rugby Aotearoa’s conclusion, was the closest thing NZ has to the American staple, but even that wasn’t a true ‘all-star’ game.
The North and South squads were selected by the All Blacks coaches with a strict eligibility criteria. The selection process for the MLB and NBA all-stars matches are events in of themselves, with coaches, fans and the media all having a say in who gets picked.
Often, game weekends are also filled out with a host of entertaining events such as legends matches and slam dunk competitions.
With next year’s calendar still very much up in the air, NZR appear to be looking for alternative ways to keeps fans entertained.
At this rate, Super Rugby Aotearoa could be done and dusted with 10% of the competition still to be played.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 5, 2020
The survey also asked respondents what specific rule changes they’d be interested in seeing, including the various modifications adopted by Super Rugby AU.
Other options include instigating mandatory yellow cards after a penalty threshold is met by either team and introducing a ‘Captain’s Challenge’.
Finally, the survey asked what kick-off times would most appeal to fans, and what title would be the best suited for a potential competition involving Australia and/or the Pacific Islands.
While there’s no guarantee that any changes will be made to next year’s competition, fans will be encouraged to see that New Zealand Rugby appear to be engaging with the masses to help shape the future of the game.
Mooted competition changes:
Playoffs and/or a final
An All-Star break
Teams from other countries
More community engagement
More innovative law changes
Coaches on the sideline, mic’d up and included in broadcast
Official fan-vote awards: MVP, Defensive Player, Attacking Player, Most Improved, etc.
More at-ground entertainment
Mooted law changes:
The awarding of a goal-line drop-out to the defending team when an attacking player, who brings the ball into in-goal, is held up.
Goal line drop out to replace 22m line drop out in all current scenarios to reward the attacking team in good field position.
50-22: If the team in possession kicks the ball from inside their own half indirectly into touch inside their opponents’ 22 or from inside their own 22 into their opponents’ half, they will throw into the resultant lineout, rewarding positive kicking in the field of play
The introduction of a penalty limit for teams. Once a team has reached the limit, a mandatory yellow card is given to the last offending player as a team sanction to reduce ambiguity and inconsistency in the awarding of yellow cards.
The introduction of a Captain’s Challenge in which each team captain can challenge any call made by the match officials during the course of a match once play has stopped, to be reviewed by an independent TMO. Each captain will only be allowed one unsuccessful challenge per match.
The introduction of a Captain’s Challenge in which each team captain can challenge any call made by the match officials during the course of a match once play has stopped, to be reviewed by an independent TMO. Each captain will only be allowed one unsuccessful challenge per match. Undecided
7 point try: Any try scored between the posts will automatically be awarded 7 points to the try scorer, with no conversion to follow, speeding up play.
Mooted competition names:
Trans-Tasman Rugby Cup
South Pacific Championship
South Pacific Rugby Cup
Super Southern Rugby
Southern Rugby Cup
Oceanic Rugby Cup
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