With the refreshed Super Rugby Pacific model announced early this week, it is more a case of ‘back to the future’ for NZ/AUS rugby. That is due to the 12 team format reverting to the old Super12 Rugby days.
12 is a good number, as the choice of a round-robin format will have each team play all others. Not conference-based as some might have requested, this model will be seen as a test against all opposition, rather than the oft-popular ‘local derbies’ for the sake of them. This means the draw will have a greater blend of fixtures, with travel the only factor that might still mean an altered schedule is yet to be confirmed.
The past edition designed in the infant years of the newly developed professional era, had New Zealand (NZ), Australia (AUS), and South African sides involved. In 2022, the African clubs have been replaced with two Pasifika sides and include all 10 teams from the two major contributing nations.
Back to the future also in terms of an original concept; the old South Pacific Rugby championship. That 10-team example included a Fijian team. Now in 2022, the freshly molded edition, Fijian Drua will be included. Terrific for that island nation, the Drua proved their worth when winning the former-NRC Australian national provincial championship.
Fijian Drua will play alongside the Moana Pasifika franchise which comprises a mixture of Samoan and Tongan players. It is a better reflection of the geographical region, than Super12 was. So expect parochial support for all franchise teams, when the competition is scheduled to begin in February 2022 [tbc].
ICYMI | We are changing the script in 2022.
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) August 30, 2021
Refreshed Super Rugby Pacific model is ‘back to the future’
Changing the script is something that SANZAAR (the organization that manages the competition) has done too many times for most. The iterations have morphed from 10 teams to 12, then 15, and as many as 18 teams in the most obese edition. Recently, as teams were culled, the desire to include sides from the Pacific basin have grown to where the new Super Rugby Pacific model reflects those ideals.
What the newest version wishes to do, is to represent. What it might be less likely to achieve though, are matches played in each country in 2022. Already, the Fijian Drua acknowledge to their local supporters that they will need to be based in Australia – as the Fijian Islands are still ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Rugby Australia CEO Andy Marinos said, “We’re thrilled to confirm the competition model for next year and beyond and want to thank NZR for their hard work and effort along with the Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika for their patience, and the effort that has been put into their proposals.
“This is a game-changer for Rugby in the Pacific, and indeed, the rest of the rugby world. We have seen the brilliant rugby that Fijians play in all formats of the game and their inclusion will make this new competition one of the toughest in the world.”
Super Rugby Pacific will kick off on February 18 next year with an eight-team playoff series culminating in a Grand final on June 18.
Features of the Super Rugby Pacific competition structure are:
12 teams (in alphabetical order), being the Blues, Brumbies, Chiefs, Crusaders, Fijian Drua, Highlanders, Hurricanes, Melbourne Rebels, Moana Pasifika, NSW Waratahs, Queensland Reds, and Western Force
Teams will play 14 regular season matches with each team to host seven matches
Teams will play eight teams once and three teams twice with an emphasis on derby matches
There will be one points table with teams ranked one to 12 based on competition points
The top eight teams on the points table will qualify for a three-week playoff format
Quarterfinals will be – 1 v 8, 2 v 7, 3 v 6, and 4 v 5 with the top-ranked team playing at home
Top-ranked quarter-final winners will host the semi-finals, and top-ranked winners of the semi-finals will host the final
Two new sides added to Super Rugby Pacific in 2022
While the likes of the Crusaders and Queensland Reds are their nations reigning Super Rugby title-holders, the Trans-Tasman version did not live up to the hype. The Reds lost from their opening match (played the week after they won Super AU) showed that the short format was not proportionate to the input needed. A full round of results is the best way to measure the best side.
And in 2022, two new sides are added to Super Rugby Pacific. And that is to the delight of Fiji Rugby and World Rugby in particular. Additional funding has been made available so that the two fresh sides are in the best place to represent all the nationalities of the squads.
Congratulations to Fijian Drua & Moana Pasifika for @SuperRugby inclusion from 2022. We will support with an £1.2m annual funding package over an initial three-year period @fijirugby @manusamoa @officialTongaRU @worldrugbymedia
— Sir Bill Beaumont (@BillBeaumont) August 30, 2021
Fiji Rugby CEO John O’Connor, on behalf of the Fijian Drua, said they are thrilled to see a format that offers all participating teams a fair shot at the playoffs. He also expressed gratitude to NZR and RA for making Fiji’s Super Rugby dreams come true. “The South Pacific has traditionally been the game’s talent goldmine globally, but NZR and RA’s commitment will help us provide professional pathways for our players right here at home. We will repay the steadfast faith shown by our partners by bringing high octane flair and skills that are uniquely Fijian to Super Rugby Pacific.
“The Fijian Drua eagerly look forward to announcing the next milestones in our journey, which will include assembling a squad of players who will light up the competition and delight fans week in, week out.”
His sentiments were echoed by Moana Pasifika chair, Sir Michael Jones who said, “Moana Pasifika acknowledges and thanks New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia for their commitment to building an exciting Super Rugby Pacific competition and the round-robin format definitely makes it even more attractive. It is a historic time for rugby in the Pacific and we’re thrilled to be a part of it.”
For all players and stakeholders, the newly formed Super Rugby Pacific is a home-based competition that celebrates all the people of the region. For the new entrants, and for established stars like Taniela Tupou (see main photo), this new championship is now more inclusive, and competitive, than it has been in several years.
Last Word on Rugby will distribute the 2022 draw and schedule once it has been announced. Covid-19 may still interrupt the original plans but, Super Rugby Pacific will be played with either open borders; or if necessary, in a controlled environment [like The Rugby Championship] that suits all parties.
Have your say, with social media platforms and on the LWOS Boards forum site here.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images