Face off: What big change should be made?

In the latest SA Rugby magazine, CRAIG LEWIS and JON CARDINELLI debate what changes they’d most like to see when rugby returns to normality.

Cardinelli calls for a global season

Many former players and coaches believe a global season is the only way to move the sport forward and address concerns around player welfare, as well as the overall product. Agustin Pichot recently spoke about using the Covid-19 crisis as an opportunity to implement real and significant change.

Consider the American model, where athletes in leagues such as the NFL have the opportunity to condition their bodies in a substantial pre-season. They’re in peak physical shape by the time the regular season starts. At the conclusion of the competition, they’re afforded a proper off-season to rest before they begin the following season’s training programme.

The upshot is that players are less susceptible to physical and mental burnout. They’re capable of performing at a higher standard for longer. It’s not hard to see how that can improve the quality of a contest – if all athletes enjoy this window to train and focus – or how a series of quality contests over the course of a competition can boost viewership and revenue.

The big question for rugby has always been which hemisphere would sacrifice their schedule to align with the other. And yet, one wonders if, with a few adjustments, both hemispheres could not be satisfied.

It’s not really important whether the key stakeholders agree on a specific scenarios at this point. What’s most important is that they come together and agree on an aligned season that prioritises player welfare and the final product.

ALSO READ: Key progress towards global calendar

Editor CRAIG LEWIS says return to a streamlined Super Rugby season

After just seven rounds of action, Super Rugby was sent into an enforced break back in March. In the weeks that followed, I found myself desperately missing live rugby, but that was based primarily on an absence of any kind of action as opposed to particularly longing for the resumption of the bloated Super Rugby competition.

To my mind, people have been losing interest in an expanded ‘Super’ competition for some time, and it got me daydreaming about my alternative if I happened to be granted three wishes by a rugby genie.

Many have said SA rugby should call it quits and leave their southern-hemisphere counterparts and head north. It’s understandable, and in times of crisis that may make the most sense when it comes to boosting the financial coffers.

Yet, I’d rather see one of the local Super Rugby franchises head north [perhaps to join the Pro14 or Premiership], and leave three in Super Rugby.

If I could picture a perfect world scenario – and ignore any realities that it may not be possible due to red tape or lopsided travel demands – my wish would be to see three South African and four New Zealand teams in Super Rugby action (the Kiwis would need to cut one side or combine the resources of two).

Mercilessly, I’d want Australia Rugby – currently in absolute dire straits – to cut their teams from four to two.

Leave the Jaguares where they are and that gives you 10 teams. Return to a straight round-robin competition that heads into a semi-final and title-decider, and you’d have a short, sharp and highly competitive tournament that would be finished within 12 weeks (if you throw in a mid-season bye for all teams).

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Craig Lewis