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Gone are the days when Super Rugby captured interest for its own sake

Peter Lakai of the Hurricanes is tackled during the round three Super Rugby Pacific match between Hurricanes and Blues at Sky Stadium, on March 11, 2023, in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

For my sins, I like to scan websites for rugby stories several times a day.

The Super Rugby Pacific season has well-and-truly started, after all, not that you’d really know from what’s getting written.

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It’s all aspiring All Blacks player this, would-be All Blacks coach that. Who’s in the frame for the Rugby World Cup? Whose injury potentially puts them in doubt?

Heck, we’ve even had an all-time ranking of All Blacks coaches.

I wrote about Ardie Savea last week. Most of the time I’m waffling on about New Zealand Rugby (NZR) or who ought to be All Blacks coach.

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And there’s a sad reality to why I do that, just as what’s on websites at the moment tells its own story.

Readers aren’t interested in Super Rugby Pacific. The media world is ruled by clicks and reader engagement and if there was a demand for match analysis and thorough previews, then that kind of copy would proliferate.

Instead we debate anything but the games.

It’s easy to say that it’s summer and that test cricket is still taking centre stage. Or that it’s Rugby World Cup year and there’s a natural interest in the bigger picture.

But I genuinely don’t think it matters what month or what year it is. I just believe that Super Rugby Pacific isn’t the competition that the host broadcaster – and NZR – would like it to be.

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I watched the Blues beat the Hurricanes, with a group of mates the other night.

Normally I won’t watch games live, in large part so I can fast-forward past the lengthy periods when the ball’s not in play. It’s been years since I watched with the sound on, either.

A couple of statements during Saturday’s commentary from Sky Stadium reminded me of why I’m just a bit over Super Rugby.

The first came when Hoskins Sotutu made a good defensive play at the breakdown and the bloke behind the microphone bellowed that this was why Sotutu was one of world rugby’s best No.8s.

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Now, I’m happy to include Sotutu in the top handful of No.8s in New Zealand, but come on. The world? Give me strength.

The other was when the match was described as extraordinary.

I’ll grant you it was close, but the only extraordinary aspect was the futility of the football played by the Hurricanes in the final minutes.

I’ll commend their effort, but surely the Hurricanes – and every half-decent rugby team for that matter – can do better than just launching one-off runners at the defensive line?

Where was the subtlety or the vision or the use of the ball to beat the man?

All we got was blokes hammering away in the hope the Blues would miss a one-on-one tackle.

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I’m told rugby league is one-dimensional and predictable, but no more so than what the Hurricanes dished up on Saturday.

The point is that telling me something is amazing or wonderful or extraordinary – when I can plainly see that it’s not – turns me off.

I might be alone there, but I suspect – judging by some of the crowds and the stuff that’s written and said about rugby these days – that I’m not.

Things that insult people’s intelligence do not encourage them to keep watching.

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Comments

5 Comments
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GrahamVF 486 days ago

I suggest for an injection of rugby enthusiasm watch URC and Heineken Cup. Last night's game between campions Stormers and 15 on the trot unbeaten Leinster ended in a thrilling the draw in the worst possible rugby conditions producing seven tries, outstanding defence, and some really exciting running by both sides. Huge physicality, great set piece contests (virtually every lineout was contested), great maul, running, intercept and kick chase tries and just about everything one could want. One side 22 points adrift after 35 minutes only to go five up with ten to play putting on 27 unanswered points and then in the death an absolutely magic try levelling the score with an impossible kick in high wind being snatched away at the last second. all in front of a full house stadium and over half a million TV viewers. Now that is the game played in heaven - rugby.

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Ray 496 days ago

Super Rugby is in decline,if the crowds are anything to go by.
But it's been in slow decline for years as I remember almost full stadia for even matches between The Western Force and say the Melbourne rebels. Everything changes, so its not surprising really. Anyway at the flick of a button or poke of a phone,you can watch any match anywhere. But I really love the sport to death!

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William 496 days ago

I started to switched off watching rugby about 2016/17 around the time TMOs got firmly engaged in proceedings and the quality of the refereeing slumped and most decisions to be debated with the touch judges, players and tmo putting in his oar .last test of Lions series 2017 a good example. l watch the first round of super rugby and thought, this looks promising but alas the referee's don't seem to want to enforce the new rules. Slipping back to old habits,players trying to slow down the game,because of fitness
issues , inconsistent decisions by the referee's.I do apologize for the ramblings of a grumpy old man, that can't help wondering how much better it could be.

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Andrew 496 days ago

Ooooh yes Couldnt agree more, and esp about the Sotutu acclamation and Hurricanes tactics. The first was risible and the second made me want to punch the telly in anger at the utter lack of imagination. WRT the latter I was waiting for the kind of marvellous play that got the Chiefs home against the Blues a season or so ago when McKenzie bamboozled them. Our footy really is low quality now.

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Willie 496 days ago

Yes, the undue rating of Sotutu made me question the knowledge of the commentator.
And, why isn't Perofeta at 1st 5? Not only is Barrett erratic but it serves the ABs future by giving Perofeta more time there.

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