Rugby Union Hot Takes: 2017 Super Rugby Team of the Year Edition

Jonathan Allred and Steve Wright give their views on some of the biggest news topics in rugby union.

This will be the start of a weekly series when a couple – or more – of our RealSport contributors give their quick takes on some of the buzz-worthy news stories going on in the rugby world.

This first edition of the column sees us tackling the weirdness of no Crusaders player being named in the Super Rugby Team of the Year, the whole Western Force debacle, and Sonny Bill Williams and his suspension issues. Enjoy:

Which Crusader should have been in the Super Rugby team of the year?

Jonny Allred: I’d say Sam Whitelock is the most snubbed player. He leads the Crusaders from the front, always putting his body on the line. He organised their line-out which was the best in the competition and constantly provided front foot ball with his carrying. He also set the tone in defence by rushing up in and making big hits whenever the team needed a spark.

Steve Wright: Whitelock is a great shout. You will hear the call that the Crusaders being absent from the team of the year – a team that is picked based on a series of stats being analysed – shows that the sum of the parts is greater than individual skill. This though is unfair on some of the Crusaders’ better players who are clearly among the best at their position in the world.

Ryan Crotty would be my choice. Sure, he is less flashy than most centres in the game, but he does everything well and always seems to have an impact in big games.

Was axing the Western Force the correct call?

JA: I don’t think that the axing of the Western Force was the correct call as they are (were) an established team with a history of modest success, mainly winning games against bigger teams at home but struggling to win many other games. They also provided rugby exposure to Western Australia which now is devoid of any high level rugby.

This was also a market which they could corner as there is not an NRL team based in Perth. This all led to decent crowds and passionate players. In contrast, the Melbourne Rebels are not at all successful and play in a city with a massive ARL fan base – along with a highly successful NRL team -who combine to garner most of the local attention.

SW: I am still on the train that thinks addition and streamlining – as opposed to straight subtraction – was the way to go here. Cut the South African teams loose, add an extra franchise in New Zealand, and make the Pacific Islands outposts for Super Rugby with their own teams. While this would need significant investment and help from the governing bodies involved to make these teams viable, it would spike interest in the game and remove some – not all – of the logistical issues that currently plague the competition.

Should the “Game of Three Halves” have counted toward the suspension of Sonny Bill Williams?

JA: The game of three halves controversy is a more difficult question for me but I fall on the side that it should not have counted. This is because I think only recognised competitive matches should count towards a ban, otherwise what is to stop a player serving their suspension through preseason matches or the Super Rugby 10s tournament?

On the other hand, this was a match where the All Blacks played a full 80 minutes against another team, but unconventionally it was two teams. Therefore, if you want a definition of a match to cover just playing 80 minutes against another team, then that criteria was satisfied.

SW: I am also against the principle of this. Taking it a step further though, what is to stop a team exploiting a loophole and hastily arranging multiple matches against inferior opponents to have a suspension pass by quickly? It will probably never happen, but it’s an issue that has been opened up here.

It also speaks badly of the game that the various governing bodies seem on opposite sides of the argument. If World Rugby and its unions cannot coexist and agree on these issues then what is the point of having an overarching world body in the first place?

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Jonathan Allred

I am a writer from the UK for the Rugby Union section of Real Sport. I grew up playing rugby and have switched to American Football since University. I enjoy all rugby but particularly the Aviva Premiership and Super Rugby.