What does Super Rugby mean to us here in the North?

The Super Rugby season is nearly upon us, here’s what this means to the like of us here in the bleak North(ern Hemisphere).

  1. The Crushing of our hopes of success.

Despite all the lessons that history of rugby has taught us, we still labour under the misapprehension that somehow New Zealand will somehow stop being outstanding.  Each time a squad of All Blacks is reaching a transitional phase the tiny beacon of hope is lit that this time, this time, the next generation will be, if not rubbish, then a least a little bit rubbisher than the last.  Then we watch Super Rugby and see an obscenely good 19-year-old winger at the Highlanders, a collection of monstrously terrifying forwards all under the age of 23 scattered across the Blues and the ‘Canes, or a brilliant player who has spent five years behind the retiring All Black incumbent of the shirt.  We then weep salt tears of frustration and shake our fists at the sky and shout “WHY? WHY? WHY?!”

  1. Too many points

Super Rugby points totals resemble a strange hybrid of cricket scores and basketball scores –  “Ah look, it was 42-2 at half time and it’s finished 96-75”.  Southern hemisphere types call this a feast of attacking skill to enrich your rugby soul.  Northern Hemisphere rugby fans call it stupid.  It’s not that we don’t like attacking rugby per se, it’s just that we don’t really understand it.  On his conquests Genghis Khan destroyed things he didn’t understand – things like cities – and that’s kind of what we do to attacking rugby.  We also genuinely prefer to see teams that can defend,  Southern Hemisphere fans seem happy to take or leave this.

  1. Manifest rugby destiny

When the Europeans first arrived on the soil of what is now the USA, they decided that it was their destiny to take over the entire continent, something that became known as a “manifest destiny”.   Super Rugby has adopted this mantle in a sporting context, something completely at odds with Northern Hemisphere thinking.  Up north, if a nation or club asks to join one of our competitions they are told to ‘piss right off’ by the upper-middle class white men at the helm of our great tournaments.   In the South you’ll let anyone join.   A Japanese team with a batshit mascot and little chance of winning? Climb aboard, lads!  A de facto Argentina team who have to clock up 97 million air miles every season?  You are welcome.   It would not be a surprise if by 2025 there is a franchise on Saturn.  Anything goes. Unless you’re Pacific Islands team; they are given the Northern Hemisphere response.

  1. All weekend rugby/drinking

Due to the ginormous bandwidth of time difference between us and the nations of the competing teams, Super Rugby allows us to incorporate the action into the full weekend drinking cycle.  A few lagers on Friday morning watching a match from NZ, continued into a tipsy viewing on Friday evening of an SA game, then watching Jaguares completely sozzled at 11pm out of one eye with a kebab balanced on our chests and dribbling down ourselves.  Hungover breakfast on Saturday watching an Aus match-up, repeat Friday but replacing Jaguares with Sunwolves.  Sunday is mostly nausea and self-loathing but that is still a bloody good weekend in anyone’s book.

  1. It rains a lot in New Zealand

There have been roughly four televised matches from NZ in the last ten years where it was not pissing it down.  Fact.

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3 comments

Their names mean nothing – “Hurricanes” – well doesn’t every ocean and every quadrant of the earth have Hurricanes? “Jaguares” I can guess, although it could be a South African mistake like “Pumas”. “Western Province” – you mean British Columbia is in Super Rugby? At least with “Munster” or “Glasgow” I know where the team is from.

I wrote the post below on (I think) the UseNet group rec.sport.rugby-union, sometime in the late 1990s. Times have changed, but perhaps we’re on a cycle…?

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While I agree pretty much wholeheartedly with [X]’s ‘rant’, I think this thread has demonstrated a possibly irreconcilable difference between fans of the northern and southern games.

I entirely sympathise with [Y]’s desire to watch running, passing and tries; but I also want to see intelligence and passion. [Y]’s love for the game is centred on a pure match (or, sadly too often, mismatch) of strength and speed. This is the Olympic Spirit applied to rugby; whoever is better, faster, stronger, must win or the ‘test’ is a failure. As I said, I sympathise. I just can’t agree.

For me, and so many other northerners, the game is as much about tactics, strategy and spirit as about pure physical might. Yes, I want to watch the ball fly through fifteen pairs of hands for the winger to score –
*sometimes*. I also want to watch a good forward drive push a flanker over under the posts; a scrum-half spot a gap and dive over from five yards; a well-worked double-scissors send a full-back crashing over with
both opposing centres clinging to his legs.

Moreover, the game is still called Rugby *Foot*ball; I don’t want to watch Rob Andrew play Gavin Hastings at golf anymore – but I *do* want to see a cleverly-angled touchfinder turn desperate defence into attack; an
unexpected grubber-kick flip a defence inside out for the winger to pounce; a high Garryowen set up good postion from a poor one; a smoothly-struck dropped goal salvage points when the backs are
outflanked.

The comparison between SH union and league is an obvious one, but valid. There appears to be only one goal, one way to score, and SH referees won’t tolerate any disruption to the beauty of the 15-man try.
Defense is now just ‘opposition’, like on a training ground – there is no way of stealing the ball unless one of the opposition’s centres drops it. One side keeps going until they score, then it’s the other guys’ turn. Of course, the faster, stronger team wins; that may even be ‘fair’; but this is rugby as an exhibition sport, not a contest. There may as well be judge panels, required moves and flowers thrown on the pitch at full time.

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