By SYDNEY MORWENG
The Vodacom brand has grown luminously well both locally and internationally since taking over sponsorship role for rugby in the country, and here we’re talking millions of rands invested in both commercial and sporting.
And to cement their undivided relationship into the sport, today an announcement was made to grow the Vodacom Super Rugby brand by including Melbourne Rebels as the 15th team thus expanding the competition to five teams from each nation.
The tourney features SA, Australia and New Zealand.
Entering its 16th season, the Vodacom Super Rugby kicks off in ten days, and promises more talent, tactics and more action as the competition expands and evolves.
The newly structured conference-style format not only promises a competition within a competition it will also ease the travel burden of all 15 franchises. All teams will now play three-quarters of their matches within their won shores.
The beard Victor Matfield, Blue Bulls utility player said he was looking forward to the new system of which he has to adapt to as soon as possible.
Asked whether this new format would have any impact on the players’ ahead of the World Cup later this year, he said it would be up to the coaches to strategise which players to use.
“It’s possible this could have an effect due to lot of travelling and intensive training involved but like I said, it would all depend on players’ adapting and coaches making right decisions,” he said.
But, this is not going to be easy now that another team has been added. My pets are going to miss a lot, he said, jokingly.
South African Rugby Union boss Jurie Roux commented that: “I’m very excited by the new format and I think our supporters will enjoy it too.”
“The evidence from all three countries was that the rugby public wanted local derbies, so we’ve doubled those and included a national Conference championship within the overall Vodacom Super Rugby title race.
“The extra derbies and new structure means that our teams will play 75% of their matches on South African soil every season when, in the past, that proportion has been as low as 62% which must help our teams.
“The extra round in the Finals series will increase the number of teams in the race for the title each season with six places now up for grabs.
“The volume of high-intensity rugby will need to be managed more than ever by teams but this season there are no inbound Test matches so those three or four matches have been replaced by the extra three or four matches that a team would play to reach the Vodacom Super Rugby final,” says Roux.
The evolution of Vodacom Super Rugby has been a wonderful growth process and showcased some of the best rugby talent the world has ever seen, says Enzo Scarcella, Vodacom’s Managing Executive for Marketing.
Scarcella said: “Vodacom Super Rugby is demonstrably bigger and better, and we expect the competition to continue its growth as the heartbeat of South Africa’s passionate rugby supporters. The addition of more local derbies will ignite the passion inside us all, and give the competition a more personal edge that can only bring out the best in our teams.”
The length of the Vodacom Super Rugby competition in 2011 will increase from 16 weeks to 21 weeks due to the forthcoming Rugby World Cup later this year. However during non-World Cup years, the length of the competition will be 24 weeks.
A total of 40 Vodacom Super Rugby regular season matches will be played in each country each season as opposed to 26 in Australia under the Vodacom Super 14 structure and 32 or 33 in South Africa and New Zealand. Each team will play 12 of its 16 regular-season games within its own country – with only four matches overseas.
The Final Series will be contested by six teams. The top franchises in each of the three Conferences will automatically advance to the Finals Series in positions 1, 2 or 3 (depending on their individual competition points totals). The other three sides to advance will be those with the highest number of competition points outside of the Conference winners. The teams qualifying in 4th, 5th and 6th positions can come from any Conference, or they could all come from one single Conference.
In week one of the Final Series, the third-placed team, as a Conference winner will host the sixth placed team in a sudden death Qualifier, while the fourth-positioned side will host the franchise which ended in fifth in the other sudden death Qualifier. The franchises that ended in first and second positions will enjoy a bye weekend.
The magnificent Orlando Stadium was on everyone’s lips having successfully hosted the finals, and its remains to be seen whether this could be possible to host finals once again.
Playoffs: June 24 and 25th
Semi-finals: July 1 and 2
Final: Saturday, July 9