I have a confession to make:
I’m a bit bored with rugby at the moment.
This time of year, I’m normally consuming every piece of rugby content I can – game highlights, analysis, forums, tweets, facebook comments, you name it. I’m frothing at the mouth about selection for the upcoming week, and making plans to watch the game.
But this season? It’s all a bit ‘meh’. And I’m sure I’m not alone.
The Rugby Championship, like Super Rugby, is stale. Argentina have now been in the competition since 2012, which makes it all clear to me – we’ve got a bad case of the seven-year itch.
Where things were once fresh and new, now we’re just going through the motions. We’ve slipped into a rut, into tired old routine. Think about it:
We start out with the Bledisloe, where the Kiwis kill off all hope by beating us both home and away. Meanwhile, the Saffers will beat Argentina at home, with nobody really paying attention.
The few remaining Aussie fans will watch South Africa and Australia play out a close but dire encounter in Brisbane (the Mandela Plate is really just the Silver Medal in the Rugby Championship), while the Argies will bring their A game in New Zealand but fade late to lose by 20-30.
It’s a similar story the week after, with South Africa looking good for 30 minutes before being run off the park by the All Blacks, while the Argies fail to produce their best in Australia (again) and go down to the Wallabies.
The script rolls on and on, with the All Blacks game in South Africa the only fixture that holds any real interest – sadly the Rugby Championship title is well in their pocket at that stage.
I’m a bit over it.
And it seems SANZAAR might finally be over it too, with draw changes being considered as a part of the new broadcast negotiations.
Think of a tournament that kicks off with the All Blacks in South Africa, and the Wallabies in Argentina, that builds to a Bledisloe crescendo. We get to build a bit of momentum, and maybe, just maybe, the All Blacks might struggle in the early stages.
But it needs to go further than that. Like Super Rugby, the draw is just one lever that needs to be pulled to reinvigorate the interests of a tired fanbase.
It might be time to swing for the fences, and introduce a knock-out format of some description.
Maybe we play each team once, before splitting into 1v4 and 2v3, resulting in a winner-take-all final. This could be played at a rotating venue each year, like the Champions League. Or just a one-off final where we play the tournament as usual, before the top two teams battle it out for the title.
There are flaws in that idea, but it’s the type of thinking we need to give this seven-year relationship a shot in the arm.
It’s time to crowdsource this, guys. I’m taking this to the comments section – what could we do to bring a bit of life back to the Rugby Championship?