And we’re back!!! Super Rugby may not be returning to normal but hey at least its returning in one form or another! Or in multiple forms as it were? Domestic competitions, Super Rugby Aotearoa (‘New Zealand‘) kicks off on Saturday the 13th of June and Super Rugby AU is set to commence on Friday the 3rd of July. Super Rugby AU recently confirmed that Japan’s Sunwolves will not be joining the competition and it is with a heavy heart that we farewell the Sunwolves from Super Rugby. They will be missed and I think we all hope they will be back in the future.

The team at Draft Rugby met up for over a couple of beers and a few games of pool on the weekend to figure out how we could continue to play Draft Rugby’s Fantasy Super Rugby, the game they play online in heaven, with the upcoming domestic competitions. There was no stone left unturned, no idea too ridiculous (cheers Nelson) and there were many options discussed. There was detailed discussions of possible fantasy conference systems but we ultimately decided not to go down that path. Here is what we’ve come up with and are pretty bloody excited about. You can also check out our latest podcast (S03E18 of the Draft Rugby Podcast) where we discussed these thoughts. It’s available on soundcloud or where ever you get your podcasts.

Super Rugby 2020 was going to be a 18 round competition (+ finals) made up of the 15 Super Rugby teams, with either 1 or 3 teams sitting out with a bye in most given weeks. Draft Rugby is designed to be played with 8 fantasy rugby managers who each draft and manage a unique roster of 23 players; 15 starters; comprised of 2 props, 1 hooker, 2 locks, 3 backrowers, 1 scrumhalf, 1 flyhalf, 2 centres and 3 outside backs along with one replacement (or bench) player for each of those 8 positions. Over years of crafting our game we have found this to be the most fun and effective format.

The numbers work out like this, on a given week there are 15 Super Rugby Teams with 15 starters = 225 players, or with 3 byes in a game week this can be 180 starting super rugby players . Our 8 managers have picked 15 unique starters each = 120 players, leaving 105 free starting agents assuming all teams are playing or with 3 byes in a game week, leaving 60 free starting agents. These numbers allowed managers to pick great teams and enough free agents to make trades for injuries or form players throughout the season.

Now with two separate domestic competitions of five teams each coming up, those numbers aren’t looking feasible to support 8 managers with 23 man teams. There are possible solutions, decreasing the amount of players in a fantasy mangers team, decreasing the number of fantasy managers, splitting managers into conferences etc.. & a 5 team competition on its own just isn’t quite going to handle how we play Draft Rugby.

Our solution is to go with a short form competition run over the 7 weeks that Super Rugby Aotearoa and Super Rugby AU coincide (starting Friday 03 July).

We are going to play our 8 man league, drafting unique teams of 17 players (15 starters in the same format as usual, 2 props, 1 hooker, 2 locks, 3 backrowers, 1 scrumhalf, 1 flyhalf, 2 centres and 3 outside backs PLUS only 1 reserve forward and 1 reserve back) each from the 10 Super Rugby teams (5 Kiwi and 5 Aussie). The numbers work out as follows, 10 Super Rugby teams with 15 starting players each = 150 players, 8 managers x 15 = 120 meaning there are 30 starting free agents however there will be a bye from both a Super Rugby Aotearoa and AU team each week, meaning there will only be 120 starting players each week.

Now there are a few things we really like about this. Firstly each manager will play all the other managers once in the regular season, straight up bragging rights – no head to head matchup draws in 2020. We like that managers still get to pick a team of 15 starters (it really makes you feel as if you have your own full team). The scarcity of available players combined with only being able to pick one reserve forward and one reserve back will introduce some new strategies and really promote trading. In such a short competition it will now be more difficult to hold your star players through a bye week, managers will have to look at impact bench players as it will be difficult to field a full starting 15 each week.

Super Rugby AU details are to be completely finalised soon as they wrap up the broadcast deal negotiations with Fox.

More to come but thank christ super rugby is coming back!!! Let us know your thoughts.

Resuming Development after a COVID-19 Pause

Over the last few months, it sometimes felt like the world was ending. I know that for Nelson, without Rugby, the world effectively did end.

During the height of the pandemic we took a breather from Draft Rugby development. We needed to wait and see how the situation unfolded before committing further resources to the project.

In Australia the worst of the pandemic appears to have past. Various sports, including Rugby Union, are emerging from deep freeze.

Platform development has resumed, and we’re cranking on new features. You can still tell us what you want on Twitter and on our forums. Draft Rugby bigger and better than ever.

Hugh (Nerd-In-Chief)

Domestic Rugby & The Super Rugby Championship Cup

The structure of Super Rugby (SR) has long been untenable and it is time to blow it up and start fresh.

For some time, as an Australian, I subscribed to the idea that we needed a Pacific or trans-Tasman competition. I now believe that this would be unfair to South Africa and would face the same sustainability issues.

I believe the future of Super Rugby is in the structure of a Championship Cup in a similar mould to the Heineken Cup in Europe. The top teams for domestic leagues in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Japan would qualify for the Cup for a home and away pool stage followed by playoffs. There would be a financial burden to begin with, however the domestic leagues across the SANZAAR nations, coupled with the Championship Cup could offer an attractive broadcast package.

Each nation would likely field eight teams in the top tier of their domestic league, providing their audiences with four local derbies, as well as eight other matches each weekend. Meaning more rugby local games, more prime time product and overall more rugby!

The autonomy provided to each national body over their league, would allow them to make the choices that would benefit their own rugby landscape. Something very enticing which they do not currently have.

The often discussed lack of depth in member nations outside New Zealand would be less of a concern, as the teams would play compatriot teams at a similar level. One thing you will note scanning through weekly lineups of competitions like the National Rugby League (NRL) in Australia, is that the talent isn’t as concentrated as it currently is in Super Rugby, yet the product is entertaining. This is all due to perception, fans would rather watch two good teams go head to head in a close battle, than one good team constantly being dominated by a great team.

Equally important is the fact that a domest league means at the completition of the season, a domestic winner will be crowned. Leaving a portion of local fans the opportunity to cheer for a premier winning side, rather than feeling like they were let down by their national teams against the likes of New Zealand.

Super Rugby Championship Cup

For all it’s failings, the international portion of SR is what made it so enticing in the first place. The best talent of the Southern Hemisphere and the three most successful rugby nations going head to head in a clash of styles. In my opinion, the current structure has been flooded by more and more international content and it has lost its shine. Sometimes less is more.

The inaugural SR Championship Cup based on rankings from the respective 2019 seasons

The SR Championship Cup would provide that international content, as a stand alone Cup that would run congruent to the domestic competition in a similar to Europe’s Heineken Cup.

Fiftein clubs would qualify via their final position in their respective domestic leagues (Currie Cup, Mitre 10 Cup, NRC and Top League), or in the future by winning a second-tier SR Challenge Cup, made up of teams who do not qualify for the SR Championship Cup.

My proposition would be that the top four sides from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand and the top three from Japan would be ranked based on domestic league performance the previous season, and arranged into three tiers of five teams. Teams would then be drawn randomly from their tiers into pools, with the stipulation that no pool shall contain two teams from the same league.

Teams will play the other two teams in the pool twice, at home and away, being awarded points in the same fashion as the current SR competition (four points for a win, two for a draw, one bonus point for scoring three or more tries than the opponent and/or for losing the match by seven or fewer points).

At the completion of the pool stage, the five pool winners, as well as the three runners-up qualify for the knock-out stage. These eight quarter-finalists are seeded by their pool performances – winners from 1–5 and runners-up from 6–8. The four pool winners with the best pool record receive home advantage for the quarter-finals against the lower ranked teams as follows 1v8, 2v7, 3v6, 4v6.

The international side of rugby is what makes it so valuable, however domestic competitions are notoriously neglected at their expense.

I believe domestic leagues will help nations to stand on their on two feet in time, whilst providing more opportunities for players in their home nations. The combination of the leagues and Championship Cup will also allow nations to expand as they see fit, whilst still having the opportunity to compete with the best sides in the Southern Hemisphere.

The notable omission from this proposed SR Championship Cup is Argentina, however I believe this structure allows for the potential addition of both South and North American teams, or even Pacific Nation teams when they have viable competitions. The five pools would then expand to four teams each, with an unchanged finals format.

Feel free to comment what you like about this structure, or how you would do things differently.

Written by Nelson Dale