Eighteen teams is too many for this competition to sustain, and Sanzaar would be wise to follow the perceived wisdom and sentence three sides to a merciful death. But which? Well, there are seven current franchises with a winning record below 40 per cent so, in descending order of ineptitude, we present the case against each.
7 Jaguares (Winning record 33.3 per cent)
Expect that record to sky-rocket this season, after the Jaguares survived without thriving in their maiden campaign, a baptism of fire that saw them play all the Kiwi teams. The wins should start flowing with New Zealand opposition absent from their new schedule, because the Jaguares have a strong squad and what could become a formidable fortress in Buenos Aires. Just ask the Lions, with last year’s runners-up losing twice in two trips to Argentina.
6 Cheetahs (32.6 per cent)
It’s hard to think of a more middling Super Rugby franchise. It’s even more difficult to recall a memorable match in which they featured. The Cheetahs have made the playoffs once in their 12-year history - a one-and-done effort in 2013 when they lost a qualifier to the Brumbies. That was the only season they managed a positive points differential and the only season they managed double-digit wins. Remove that outlier and the Cheetahs average 4.1 victories in 11 campaigns. Ugh.
5 Lions (31.7 per cent)
If we were having this conversation four years ago, the Lions would have been first in line to be euthanased. After a couple of strong campaigns under Laurie Mains to begin the 21st century, the then-Cats fell into a death spiral, finishing in the bottom three for 11 straight seasons before being relegated following the 2012 edition. But, welcomed back under Johann Ackermann, the Lions have become the kings of the jungle in South Africa and are in no danger of being put down.
4 Force (31.3 per cent)
It was a nice idea, I guess, expanding to Western Australia and giving Kiwi teams a stopover on the way to and from the Republic. But that’s about the only value the Force have provided. The tone was set in 2006, winning once in 13 fixtures to finish rock bottom in their maiden campaign. The Force have never reached the playoffs, never finished in the top six and have scrapped their way to only two winning seasons in an 11-year history. And, in losing 26 games across the last two years, they show no sign of improvement.
3 Rebels (30.6 per cent)
It was a nice idea, I guess, expanding to Melbourne and giving Kiwi teams a chance to visit the best city in Australasia. But that’s about the only value the Rebels have provided. Their best finish is 10th. Only once have they averaged more than 20 points a game. They’ve never had a positive points differential. But, unlike some others on this list, they have sprayed their stink on Super Rugby for only six seasons, and they have tasted victory seven times in each of the last two campaigns. Signs of life.
2 Kings (17.7 per cent)
Now we’re into small-sample-size territory. But what a sample the Kings have offered. Relegated from Super Rugby after winning three of their 16 fixtures in 2013, the South African side returned last year and were somehow even worse. Conceding an astonishing, inexplicable, scarcely-believable 45.6 points per game, the Kings won twice in 15 matches, beating only their two fellow competition newbies. Such a lamentable record saw them finish last-equal with...
1 Sunwolves (5.6 per cent)
To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Japanese entity claim the historic wooden spoon. And their record is going to get worse before it gets better. Remember, last year they played no Kiwi teams and still shipped 88 tries in 15 games. So far this year they have played one Kiwi team and shipped 13 tries. Shield your eyes next month, when the Sunwolves come to New Zealand and in consecutive weeks play the Crusaders, Highlanders and Chiefs. The wolves in The Grey had an easier time battling Liam Neeson.
Sanzaar should reconsider and dump four teams. Seriously. Based on performance only, how can the Sunwolves, Kings, Force or Cheetahs justify their continued existence? If it’s only three, the Sunwolves barely survive. There is, at least, potential for growth in Japan, something boasted by none of the other strugglers.
- NZ Herald