Creating a second division in an expanded Super Rugby is a better idea than culling teams
OPINION: For all the damage expansion has done to Super Rugby, it could be the very thing that saves the competition.
Finding a sustainable model for this once renowned competition has proven a thorn in the side for Sanzaar.
Their decision to cull three teams, which were added during three stages of ill-advised expansion, has marks of knee-jerk thinking scribbled all over it.
Hitting undo will not fix the already damaged competition.
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Even without confirmation of the teams getting cut, legal threats are already being bandied about and the uncertain futures of some of the competition's strugglers will do nothing for the ability to put together a team for next year.
Fewer teams mean fewer consumer markets and fewer potential contracts for players - you can be sure the European clubs will be circling like vultures for players at the doomed franchises.
Growing the competition was the right idea for Sanzaar, but it has been poorly executed.
The result has been a confusing and diluted competition.
Its prime was in its formative years as a 12-team round robin, but there is no way it returns to its original size.
Super Rugby has grown to a point that trying to operate in a single division makes little sense.
The pool system has failed miserably.
Television companies loved the increased local derbies, but the drastic difference in difficulties of the pools have made the competition laughable.
That same competitive-imbalance has not been fixed in Sanzaar's latest plan.
The easy answer is to scrap the pool system and run two divisions.
By levelling the playing field, the watchable of the rugby would improve.
The threat of slipping to the second division would also provide the cellar-dwellers of division one plenty to play for in the final weeks.
And with a second division, there is the potential of more teams and more countries being involved in the competition.
HOW IT WOULD WORK
Division one would feature 12 teams, just like the original Super 12.
The remaining six teams in the 2016 competition would drop to division two with up to four new teams.
That would open the door for another New Zealand side, a Pacific Island team and possibly even an American team, based on the United States' west coast, to enter the competition.
With the smaller divisions, teams would play every other team in their division once.
The play-offs would revert to semifinals and finals.
That would allow for six weeks to be shaved off the 2016 model.
While the top four of division one battle for the title, the bottom four would have their own relegation battle.
The losers of ninth v 12th and 10th v 11th would play a final match with the loser automatically relegated and the winner playing a promotion-relegation match with the runner-up of division two.
The winner of division two would be automatically promoted.
USING NEW ZEALAND'S PLAYER POOL
While some of the other nations in Super Rugby have struggled to pull together quality sides, a pile of talented New Zealand players can't even get on the field.
New Zealand face a constant battle to retain players with limited contracts available for talented provincial players to pick up.
With more teams in Super Rugby, New Zealand rugby could use the system to see more of its players rewarded with higher contracts without players leaving for overseas for good.
A draft or loan system for players who miss selection in New Zealand teams would help strengthen the competition, but would have to have some strict guidelines attached.
A potential system would see Kiwi teams able to protect up to 40 players each.
The remaining New Zealand provincial players would be eligible for the draft if they are over 21 and have committed to a New Zealand provincial contract for the following year.
This would allow some of the fringe players to experience a higher level of rugby and play overseas with the guarantee of them returning for a crack at New Zealand Super Rugby teams the following year.
All players signed through the draft would still be eligible for the All Blacks as they have New Zealand deals locked up.
The two-tier competition has its flaws, including the possibility of some major markets being stuck in division two for long periods.
But it would provide a better viewing experience for fans.
It also allows the competition to continue to grow without affecting the quality of rugby for the top teams.