Super Rugby: 5 Things We Don't Want to See in 2013
With the 2013 Super 15 season fast approaching, it’s hard not to get a little bit excited at the prospect of another year of top-class rugby. If the 2012 season was anything to go by, it will be another year of entertaining, free-flowing, high-action rugby, which can’t be anything but good.
But amongst all this, there were just a few dampers on last year’s competition. To try to clean up these issues, here are five things we don’t want to see in 2013.
Inconsistencies Policing the Breakdown
This one is infuriating for players, coaches and fans alike. The breakdown is a complex area of the game as it is, but the way it is policed at times makes it near impossible to know what is legal in the eyes of the referee.
Of course there are always going to be things missed—that’s inevitable and understandable.
But what made the breakdown such a frustrating area last year came in the number of obvious offences missed, particularly when you look at the number of obscure offences penalised. It became ridiculous how often this was happening, and it decided games.
Imagine how the players must feel. Not knowing when they have rights and when they don’t, effectively having to take a gamble on when they contest for the ball.
Coaches, too, must find it near impossible to work a game plan around it, with interpretations changing on a weekly, sometimes minutely, basis.
For everyone else, it makes for a hard watch.
It can kill the fun of supporting your team if you know the result is going to come down to a few lucky calls here and there. Even more so if it is hard to understand why some obscure penalties are given, while an obvious one just seconds before went unpunished.
A lot of the time this is unintentional, and you can’t blame the referee for not trying. But it still takes away from the game, and it will be better for all involved if this problem can be resolved.
Admittedly, this one has improved over the past few months with the inception of the new scrum calls. But these calls have yet to be used in Super Rugby, and until they have proven themselves over a length of time, the problem will remain by no means fixed.
How often did we see a scrum set three, four even five times last year?
There were times when five minutes would run off the clock without any action happening. Five minutes! That’s one-sixteenth of a game! Quite ridiculous and rather boring, unless you’re a front row tragic whose thrills come from seeing the men in the low numbers do battle at scrum time.
There’s been much debate on how to fix the problem.
The change in calls was possibly the best suggestion and may be the answer, depending on how fast the referee delivers them. Others suggested stopping the clock, which solves the problem of game time being chewed up, but does little to make for a more exciting and fast-paced game.
My suggestion is one that hasn’t been popularised, but it blows my mind that more people haven’t thought of it.
Give the front rowers proper rugby jerseys to wear. By proper jerseys I mean the ones that were worn throughout rugby history up until the last 10 years or so.
These new jersey’s were developed with the intention of making it harder to grab for defenders. Sure, there is logic in this. But when you have two 900 kilogram packs smashing into each other, the props need something that is easy to bind onto in a split second, not something that is designed to be hard to get hold of.
Yet we constantly analyse why so many scrums collapse—almost mind-boggling, isn't it?
This became a theme during the 2012 season. The whole idea of being able to go upstairs and look at the television footage is to make sure the right decision is made, even if it takes a few minutes.
Yet last year they still managed to get it wrong enough times to make it concerning.
Sure it’s easy for an onlooker to point the finger, you may say. It’s easy to make the decision when you’re watching the game at home or in the crowd, with nothing riding on whether you were wrong or right.
But really, these guys are professionals; they are paid to make the right decisions. With the benefit of super-slow motion replays and multiple angles, the right decision should be made 99 times out of 100. It just needs to be made.
In some sports, what is happening off the field always seems to be more important than what is happening on it. That’s all well and good, but not rugby. Well, not to the same extent anyway.
Last year, we saw all the drama surrounding the career options of Sonny Bill Williams. We saw the extensive coverage of what was going on behind the scenes at the Blues camp. And of course, already this year we have been subjected to the latest incident in the Zac Guildford saga.
It’s all interesting, in moderation, but not to the extent it gets beaten up to be. When it starts interfering with the rugby, it gets to be too much. For 2013, let’s hope the rugby remains the primary focus.
This one will ring true to so many teams. With the extended competition, Super Rugby has now become so much about managing your players so you can get a top team out on the field every week.
It gets to the point where some teams are putting out their third- or even fourth-string players in certain positions. The problem was so bad for some teams over the past two years that they didn't have seven backs to field.
Obviously, this isn't ideal and doesn't really help anyone. When you have one team playing their first choice XV and another missing 10 key players, it detracts from the value of the games and ultimately the competition.
Let's hope 2013 sees the top players remaining healthy, so we get the dream showdowns between the top players that we have waited all summer for.