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MX News Update 2024


The accelerated Super Rugby Pacific provides a blueprint for a wider game

Super Rugby Pacific happily made itself the guinea pig for the global game in 2022 when it decided to introduce innovations aimed at killing the amount of dead time and generating a greater volume of ball-in-play content.

It was a move that served two different purposes. The first was to reignite fan interest in a league that had lost its way since 2016 due to ill-conceived expansion plans.

Super Rugby was the most vibrant and exciting club competition when it launched in 1996, but in 2016, when it spanned four continents, sixteen time zones and eighteen teams, it collapsed under its own weight.

When Covid then hit in 2020 and led to New Zealand closing its borders for two years, the competition faced more restructuring and geographical repositioning, and even more fans walked out.

Brett Cameron
The shot clock has reduced the average time between a penalty being awarded and it being taken from 80 seconds to 68 seconds (Photo Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Like everything else, the aim of introducing an empowerment plan for officials was to speed up the time to set scrums and take goal kicks, and to reduce the influence of the TMO, to give the competition a recourse to sell to. fans.

It was a way to convey the message that Super Rugby would put fans back at the heart of its thinking and do everything it could to produce the kind of impactful, aerobic rugby that resonates so well with the psyche of the Southern Hemisphere.

It was also an opportunity to show the rest of the world, but especially administrators in the Northern Hemisphere, what rugby could look like with a few minor tweaks that don’t compromise the basics.

Dead time has decreased by more than six minutes per game since 2022. This has been made possible by micro-savings in various facets of the game that have historically been able to take too long.

The plan was to stage faster, more dynamic matches that brought back the fans and then use the evidence to convince the North that there needed to be universal adoption of some of the behaviors and innovations being trialled.

And after ten rounds of Super Rugby in 2024, the evidence is mounting to support the logic of the plan.

Data has been released showing that dead time has decreased by more than six minutes per game since 2022.

It was created through micro-savings in various facets of the game, which historically have been allowed to continue for too long.

Cortes Ratima
The average number of attempts per game has increased from 6.4 in 2022 to 7.5 this season (Photo Michael Bradley/Getty Images)

The advent of a 60-second shot clock on goal kicks has played a major role in speeding things up.

In 2022, there was an average of 80 seconds between awarding a penalty and taking a kick on goal.

That figure dropped to 71 seconds in 2023 and is now 68 seconds in 2024.

The time lag between scoring a try and restarting play has also shortened over the past three years – from 113 seconds in 2022 to 100 in 2023 and now stands at 99 seconds.

This stacks up if the average number of tries scored per game is 7.5, as is the case now (up from 6.4 in 2022).

Super Rugby has given the Southern Hemisphere the evidence it had to present to the rest of the world that playing at the margins can yield enormous benefits without compromising the gladiatorial nature of the sport or debunking the set-piece.

Crucially, given the number of penalties being kicked, the figures show how much better Super Rugby is dealing with the dead time this process entails.

In 2022, it took 33 seconds between the time the referee awarded the penalty and the time the kicker touched the ball out. Now it takes 26 seconds.

These seconds add up, and so does the time it takes for TMOs to adjudicate tries and foul play, another area where Super Rugby has made a critical reduction.

The average number of TMO interventions in 2024 has fallen from 1.6 last year to 1.3, which on average translates into 34 fewer seconds per game spent checking attempts and 38 fewer seconds per game spent checking fouls game.

The cuts have resulted in total time per game falling from 93 minutes and 51 seconds in 2022 to 91 minutes and seven seconds in 2024.

Tim Ryan
High-octane clashes between leading teams have helped revive Super Rugby’s crowds (Photo Albert Perez/Getty Images)

There is also evidence that these changes are helping Super Rugby regenerate its audience – albeit not as quickly or as dramatically as hoped – with Sky TV in New Zealand saying its total viewership is up 11 percent this year.

Much of this increase is due to more content being made available on a free-to-air channel, so an 11 percent increase is not as sensational as it may seem.

Yet Super Rugby has delivered the Southern Hemisphere – or at least New Zealand and Australiaast – the evidence it had to present to the rest of the world that playing on the margins can yield enormous benefits without endangering the gladiatorial nature of the sport or undermining the setting.

Undoubtedly, Super Rugby has produced an unmistakable blueprint that the game should universally enable referees to better manage blind spots, keep shot clocks for goal kicks and think about where else they can be introduced to speed things up.

But another aspect of Super Rugby Pacific that New Zealand and Australia want the rest of the world to embrace remains controversial – and that is the 20-minute red card.

The evidence suggests that teams can remain competitive at a numerical disadvantage for about twenty minutes. If a team receives a red card with more than 20 minutes to play, they rarely win.

There will be a vote on May 9 on whether this should be adopted universally, but it is not clear whether it will reach the 75 percent required to become law.

Once again New Zealand and Australia, as well as their Sanzaar partners South Africa and Argentina, believe the 20-minute red card – where the sent-off player can be replaced – is a way to ensure fans can see the match they came for have paid. watch.

In the South, 20-minute red cards have been used in Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship since 2021, as they believe this is a better way to preserve the sanctity of the match, while they would also like to see stricter post-match sanctions imposed on the individual perpetrators not to trivialize the criminal acts.

They do not believe that reducing the punitive nature of a red card will compromise player safety, and the prevailing view is that rugby cannot sustain meaningful matches if it ends up being 14 versus 15.

The evidence suggests that teams can remain competitive at a numerical disadvantage for about twenty minutes.

If a team receives a red card with more than 20 minutes to play, they rarely win.

There are exceptions – England defeated Argentina at the World Cup last year after Tom Curry was sent off after eleven minutes – but mainly a red card in the first half or early in the second half removes the uncertainty about the outcome for the fans.

Mathieu Raynal
England defeated Argentina despite Tom Curry’s yellow card being upgraded to red, but that was the exception rather than the norm (Photo Henry Browne – World Rugby/Getty Images)

When one realizes that 30 red cards have been shown in the 160 tests played between the leading nations since 2021, it is an important decision for rugby to think about.

Current statistics show that almost one in five tests is affected by a red card, but against this the need to reinforce good tackling technique and maintain player safety is paramount.

That’s why NZR chief executive Mark Robinson is unsure what the outcome of the vote will be.

“There are always conflicting views on important issues, but overall there is a recognition that what we are seeing through three years of work across the Rugby Championship and Super Rugby could be a very positive development for the game and a nod to the recognition that we We listen to fans,” he said recently.

“We want to ensure that red card scenarios we have seen in recent times do not limit the nature of the competition.”

What Robinson does know, however, is that if the vote does not go ahead, Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship will go ahead with the 20-minute red card anyway, believing it is the best way for the game to keep fans hooked .