Western Force players react after losing the match against the ACT Brumbies  at GIO Stadium in Canberra
Western Force players react after losing the match against the ACT Brumbies at GIO Stadium in Canberra LUKAS COCH

'I've never seen a code fall off the perch like it has'

RUGBY UNION: Australian rugby league great Mark Geyer has declared he's never seen a competition fall off a cliff the way Super Rugby has in Australia in recent years.

The much-maligned rugby competition which now encompasses Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and Japan is set to undergo major surgery at the end of the 2017 season with the futures of several Australian teams on the line.

A meeting of SANZAAR rugby officials, the governing body of Super Rugby, this week is expected to carve up the competition into a new structure for the 2018 season.

The future of the Perth-based Western Force and the Melbourne Rebels is uncertain, but Geyer and fellow NRL legend Matthew Johns believes few Aussie fans would miss the expansionist Super Rugby franchises.

As SANZAAR officials continue to decide the fate of Australian rugby, Geyer took aim at Australian Rugby Union boss Bill Pulver, accusing him of dropping the ball since taking over Australian Rugby's top job from John O'Neil.

"I've never seen a code fall of the perch like it has," Geyer told Triple M's Grill Team.

"At the moment our Super 18, 19 or 20 or whatever it is, I'm looking at the table thinking who is that? Who are they? I don't know what's going on with our rugby union here at home.

"There just doesn't seem to be any ads for union. I don't see any highlights. I suppose I'm on (Fox Sports) 502 all the time watching my sport. But it seems to me, once the baton was passed from O'Neil to Pulver that this has all gone backwards.

 

Nic Stirzaker of the Rebels makes a break against the Hurricanes
Nic Stirzaker of the Rebels makes a break against the Hurricanes ROSS SETFORD

"I don't know much about the intricacies of the leadership with rugby union but I know when John O'Neil was at the helm they were going pretty good."

Newcastle Knights great Johns said Super Rugby franchises in Australia must be amputated in order to save the game.

"The Super Rugby in its form has spread itself too thin," he said.

"There's just too many sides. You would see Super Rugby return to what it was in the late '90s if they said, righto, look I understand you're trying to spread the game, but the Western Force is losing lots of money. The Melbourne Rebels are just getting pummelled continually. If you went back to having three Australian sides, four South African sides and five New Zealand sides. Stick with Argentina and Japan because that is serious expansion, but then you're talking about a really elite competition.

"You just have to look at the table of Super Rugby and the competition's structure now. It is absolutely so confusing. There's the normal standings then you've got the Australian conference then you've got the New Zealand conference and the South African conference and then there's the South Africa Twos conference. What is going on?"

He said the competition has also lost identity and significance since teams ceased identifying themselves with a geographic area instead of a franchise moniker like Waratahs and Reds.

 

Waratahs fullback Israel Folau is wrapped up by the Sharks defence during their Super Rugby match at GrowthPoint Kings Park.
Waratahs fullback Israel Folau is wrapped up by the Sharks defence during their Super Rugby match at GrowthPoint Kings Park. Samuel Shivambu

"I don't know whose idea it was to get rid of the names of the sides," Johns said.

"Where are the Lions from in South Africa? I don't know. Where are the Kings from? Buggered if I know. They've lost identity there. They seriously need to have a re-think about how Super Rugby is run."

Under siege amid uncertain shake-ups to the competition's complex format, Australia's Super Rugby franchises did themselves few favours on another weekend of near misses and flops.

The Brumbies were Australia's only winners, wrestling the conference lead from the Western Force with a dour 25-17 victory over the Perth outfit in Canberra.

But the Queensland Reds, Force, NSW Waratahs and last-placed Melbourne Rebels all languish in the bottom eight as SANZAAR, the competition's ruling body, sharpens the knife amid talk of the competition being slashed from 18 teams to 15.

News Corp Australia


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