It’s Tahs vs Brumbies week. We have two of them every year. But for some reason, this one feels different.
For the first time in years, I just want my team to win. I’m not looking at the table to think which Aussie team has the best chance of a home semi-final. I’m not hoping that the loser gets a bonus point. I just want my team to play well and smash the opposition.
This sensation, this genuine tribalism in my team, is something I haven’t felt in years and now I understand why.
The amazing strength of Super Rugby was that almost every game was an international fixture, but in a way, I think this ultimately became its flaw. Every week was a mini Bledisloe, and during a period of unprecedented New Zealand international dominance, we were losing every week.
As much as it pains my Aussie pride to say, it simply isn’t fun getting beaten every weekend. Now to be fair, I would wager that over the past three years there would be few clubs from any rugby-playing nation that could beat the Crusaders or the Hurricanes at home, but as fate would have it, that was our domestic duty.
I suspect this has played a large part of why so many former Super Rugby fans have turned to Shute Shield and Hospital Cup in recent years, they were sick of seeing their team getting flattened to New Zealand commentary.
Super Rugby AU has reinvigorated my love for the Super Rugby franchises. I know that every week the fans of two Australian franchises will be cheering while even the losers can look forward to seeing the best players from the other team in Wallaby gold later in the year.
Now I don’t know enough about TV rights deals to know if Super Rugby AU can financially sustain itself on its own, maybe we need to expand internally (South Australia?), maybe we need to allow more foreign players, all I know is that this feels different in a good way and I want this feeling to continue.
The concept of a Super 8 post-season would make the international clashes between our best clubs something special again, something to look forward to all year, especially if that means we can see some of the best Japanese Top League clubs (full or former Wallabies) play against our clubs.
But in the meantime, a domestic competition that crowns a domestic champion is the key to reinvigorating the Australian public’s love of the game. Once that passion returns, then we can worry about how to beat the All Blacks again.