The success of Super Rugby depends on (1) evolution and (2) tribalism.
In New Zealand you have a number of provinces playing in the NPC. You have teams from Otago, Canterbury, Auckland, Wellington and Waikato, among others.
Those first five provinces all became Super Rugby franchises and other provinces feed into them. I guess pretty much the same would be the case in SA.
So, why wouldn’t you take the Rebels, the Brumbies, Waratahs, Reds and Force and have them as existing NRC franchises? Then add three more teams (to start off with) from defined regional areas – let’s use, for example – Townsville, Darwin and somewhere in Western NSW (the Cockatoos? – not just Western Sydney).
So you have the Perth Force, the Melbourne Rebels, the Canberra Brumbies, the Sydney Waratahs, the Brisbane Reds, the Townsville Brolgas, the Darwin Mosquitos and the Western NSW Cockatoos?) or for the sake of history the other team based in Queensland could be Blue Heelers.
Defined territories and identities (tribalism) – well known brands/ identities (evolution).
Don’t have a team in Western Sydney – have it further west in a relatively large centre.
In the development years, no harm in moving games around, so the Brumbies could play in Wagga, or Cooma as well as Canberra. The Waratahs could play North and South of the Harbour and up to Central Coast – the Reds could play at Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunny Coast – and so on.
Give that competition another five years to grow its roots and then think about a process of promotion and relegation for Super Rugby so that we always have five strong franchises.
Supporters and sponsors have a readily identifiable brand and identity to get behind, and you are not watering down the market place. Yes, the Rams and the Fleet and the Rays and the Vikings are all great names, but they do very little to stimulate the kind of tribalism the game needs.
You would have no difficulty in establishing an identifiable presence in the other three regions, because you already have representative organisations like the NSW Country Cockatoos, the Queensland Country Blue Heelers and the Darwin Mosquitos.
The Darwin comp (or NT comp) is made up of teams from Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs, so there would be no doubt that the Mozzies would be representative of a large chunk of Aussie real estate.
So there you have it – sorry to the Rams, the Rays, the Fleet and the Vikings, but eight highly identifiable brands and tribes is the way to go.
NSW and Queensland get two teams each.
Later on, probably not for ten years or so, you could add an Adelaide team or a second Vic or WA team. However, it has to be a process of measured evolution and if there is one thing that I have noticed about rugby people is that if something doesn’t work in one or two seasons, they want to scrap it.
You have to give these things time.
This is a competition that is worth persevering with. The way to take some of the financial responsibility off the shoulders of the ARU or state unions is to have brands so identifiable that sponsors and supporters will get behind their teams and fund-raise in a way that existing clubs can’t do now.
I really think that this is a workable concept and highly deserving of more thought and discussion.