Rugby Australia not ready to let go of Super Rugby AU just yet

Rugby Australia will seriously explore the possibility of continuing an Australian-only competition next year in conjunction with a trans-Tasman tournament.

Saturday’s Super Rugby AU final in Brisbane between the Queensland Reds and Brumbies was a thrilling showcase for Australian rugby, with huge television ratings and a crowd of more than 41,000 adding to the occasion.

Taniela Tupou celebrates the Reds’ victory on Saturday night.Credit:Getty

However, RA chairman Hamish McLennan believes there could be room for an Australian-only element.

“I’ve always liked the local component and believe it’s something we should give serious consideration to, in conjunction with trans-Tasman,” McLennan told the Herald. “It’s reminiscent of our original thinking around local derbies and replicating some of the success of the Big Bash. That was proven on Saturday night.

“Trans-Tasman is the future but there are lessons from this.”

While there are financial incentives in playing the Kiwis, RA could flip this year’s schedule around. Instead of a 12-week Australian competition and six-week trans-Tasman schedule, RA could start next year with a condensed six-week Australian tournament to get ready for tough New Zealand clashes.

Anton Lienert-Brown scores for the Chiefs in their big win over the Waratahs in 2020. Credit:Getty

RA understands the value of having Australian teams winning games each week.

If Australian teams get thumped regularly in coming weeks by New Zealand sides, RA might be more tempted to give fans a repeat of what they had this year.

A decision on next year’s competition structure is set to be made by the end of June.

All five Australian sides will start as outsiders this week, with the Queensland Reds and Waratahs beginning their trans-Tasman campaigns on Friday against the Highlanders and Hurricanes respectively.

An overall win rate of greater than 50 per cent for Australian teams will be seen as a major win by RA.

“Our rebuild will take years but the Brumbies and the Reds are showing some depth which is really pleasing,” McLennan said. “They’ll be the Aussie teams to beat.”

Television ratings will also be closely monitored in coming weeks. Nine will broadcast a Saturday evening game every week on 9GEM, while the four other matches of the round will be shown on Stan Sport.

An average audience of 285,000 people watched the Reds’ victory over the Brumbies, with more than 464,000 watching the frantic final minutes.

McLennan, who was at Suncorp Stadium, said those numbers – big increases on 2020 – showed professional rugby still has a pulse.

“The ratings were massive and we always believed the game would come back,” McLennan said. “We were right. We knew there was life in this iconic, global game and this is just the start of good things to come”.

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