Will it all go according to plan?

Will it all go according to plan?

So then, Super Rugby Pacific, huh?

Not a big surprise with the name, and actually it didn’t take a lot of thinking for a new name. It does what it says on the tin; Super Rugby, with a Pacific Island flavour.

It’s great that it’s all behind us now, and the teams will certainly benefit from the certainty of a start date – even if there is a bit of uncertainty as to whether the date can actually be met. But more on that later.

On Zoom talks with Brumbies assistant coach Laurie Fisher and new Waratahs coach Darren Coleman yesterday afternoon, that was a common and early theme: February 18 as a nominated start date now means they can work backwards from there and start their pre-seasons structure accordingly.

Overall, the format announced was the same as leaked to New Zealand media last week. 12 teams – formalized with the admission of Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua – each played 14 games in one conference.

Even the eight-team, three-week finals series made it to it with no particularly compelling argument when the idea was flown onto the metaphorical flagpole last week.

The only real ‘new’ detail was that the additional three games in addition to the eleven round-robin games would be structured and locked in with an “emphasis on derby matches”, rather than a complicated system based on seeding that nobody really cares about. would have.

In terms of time frame, the February 18 start to a June 18 final is exactly the same calendar footprint as Super Rugby AU + trans-Tasman this year.

Taniela Tupou with the Reds. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

As for the timetable, the two-year confirmation brings Super Rugby Pacific in line with the end of the current three-year staffing deals signed late last year. It gives the new league time to gain a foothold for local broadcasters (and ideally formalize an international broadcasting deal for the next two years), while also creating a target date for the next step. And the idea of ​​bonding with Japan in one form or another remains a clear goal.

And sure, eight teams playing quarter-finals from a comp of twelve teams is a little awkward. “Opinion will be divided on that,” Darren Coleman said yesterday.

“Personally, I think you would have to win over 50 percent of your games to make a playoff series, but there are commercial reasons for that, I’m sure.”

It’s a hard point to argue. But by playing eighth in a quarter-final on hostile turf, and so on, at least the card game is enough to leave the semi-finals and finals with the best teams in the end. But by then, if the seventh and eighth can get through, then I wish them the best of luck.

Coleman also had the foresight to at least joke that the playoffs are now a better prospect for his rebuilding Waratahs squad than yesterday morning before the announcement.

“If we don’t go in with that purpose, we don’t stand a chance,” he said.

Fisher said in response to a question I put to him that he didn’t believe Australian teams would suddenly start playing ‘Pacific rugby’, but admitted he was interested in seeing what the inevitable pace of the competition and the positivity of the island sides to develop the Australian game.

And interestingly enough, and while he was quick to say that most discussions about the format have been largely at the CEO level, he affirmed that “even at our level, we’ve been working on what our preferred model is for the future, and I think they did a pretty good job.”

“As well as it has played local derbies in recent years, I don’t know if that really helps generate or improve our game when you run into the New Zealanders doing the same,” Fisher said.

“The ability to bounce between different opponents, bring back a little bit of travel, I think it’s a really refreshing start for players and coaching staff, and a refreshing product for hopefully a whole new generation of rugby supporters.”

Fiji Drua

Ratunaisa Navuma of Fijian Drua. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

Of course, with the continued emergence of new COVID-19 cases on both sides of the Tasman Sea every day, and new daily cases of nearly 400 in Fiji, the very obvious contingency question is valid and ever-present.

And not just if border bubbles don’t open in time; contingencies will also be necessary if international borders and Australian state borders are again forced to close in 2022. And yes, the federal government is doing its best to talk a strong game of open borders and skies above it, but the reality is they just can’t see the future.

They may think they know, and they want to radiate confidence, but they just don’t know.

(A side note here, I was pleased to find that while immunization rates in Australia and New Zealand are slowly rising, over 95 percent of eligible Fijian adults have had their first dose and over 45 percent have had a second. that this can only help get Fiji added to the trans-Tasman travel bubble when it eventually reopens.)

So what’s the fallback option? What happens if half of the teams can’t travel in a certain direction? Split conferences, a la Aotearoa and AU? Single point of hosting, a la the rest of The Rugby Championship?

Fisher wasn’t sure, although I suspect he gave us a good idea. “If I became a gambler, I would say that contingency plans would simply be a change of draw rather than a change of competition,” he said.

“So you can go to New Zealand for a three or four week bubble tour, instead of bouncing around from New Zealand to Perth to the Sunshine Coast, back to Canberra. You could play your game in the ditch in a lump, I’d say that might be the contingency, but it’s above the pay scale, mate.’

And what comes from a local perspective from the Super Rugby AU competition? Do we now see a chance that it will become the standalone next league level to be played at this time of year?

I’ve been saying for a while, and I believe it more and more now, that it really is the cheapest, quickest and easiest way to create a new league, and one that has the immediate appeal of fans and tribalism that forces the powers on which it seems to be targeted. And I know it’s been discussed by the CEOs. Several times.

It almost makes sense now that RA would be crazy not to let it happen.

“Without a doubt, we need something between club rugby and where the professional games are,” said Fisher.

“So indeed, we could very well be able to have some sort of NRC like competition based on the five Super Rugby teams, considering you’ve got 30 or 40 players away with the Wallabies.

“It provides a real opportunity, with a few other injuries and things like that, it provides an additional opportunity – for some teams more than others – to introduce about 15 new players to a back-end of the season comp.”

Even adding that he really enjoyed the Brisbane semi-finals over the weekend, and would still ideally like to find a way to support the rugby finals of the clubs across the country and replace the NRC, Fisher certainly sees the benefit of building into the next Super Rugby Pacific season after a domestic competition at this time of year.

But that’s another column for another day. Or at least a repetitive commentary on an obvious and feasible development contest for another day.

For now, Super Rugby Pacific is here, and all the response since yesterday’s announcement has been overwhelmingly positive.

The recruiting balls are seriously starting to roll for the Drua and Moana Pasifika, and it already seems like Highlanders playmaker Josh Ioane is in the crosshairs of the latter. The more names they sign and the more announcements they make, the faster their momentum will increase.

It’s an exciting time for rugby in this part of the world. It feels like the thought bubbles and dream dreams of many a rugby fan over the past two decades have all come together in one bulk email announcement.

Let’s hope the competition start of February 18 can go as planned.

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