Sevens solution for rugby


rugby ball genericSanzar bosses are wrestling with what to do with Super Rugby.

What they really want is to make more money out of it, because it’s that income that is helping to prop up the game in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

The problem is that the public, even the rugby public, is becoming ever more bored with Super Rugby. We get more excited as the season progresses, and certainly engage at semifinals time.

But the early rounds quickly get lost in a bit of a blur, rather like all those quickfire Twenty20 matches that are forgotten almost as soon as they’re finished.

The last thing we want is for the Super competition to be expanded to 18 teams. Bigger certainly would not be better.

Looking into my crystal ball, I’m picking part of the solution will be sevens rugby. Let me explain.

It’s a wee way away yet, but in a few years’ time, and given the impetus of its inclusion as an Olympic sport, sevens rugby will hold increasing appeal for the rugby public.

Rugby followers, tired of collapsing scrum after collapsing scrum, rumbling forward play and endless pick and gos, will eventually delight in the speed and movement sevens offers.

The problem for sevens now is that it doesn’t have star power. Sure there are great sevens players, but they remain largely unknown to the wider rugby public. That will change.

For example, DJ Forbes, the New Zealand sevens captain, has now played in 67 international tournaments and is the equal New Zealand record-holder, alongside Lote Raikabula and Amasio Valence.

Forbes, an inspiring captain, guided his team to the 2013 World Cup and has led New Zealand to a position where they are about to wrap up the international sevens series for the fourth year in succession.

He is a great player and should be regarded in the same light as Richie McCaw, but because sevens remains a poor cousin, he is not.

The fact that it is now an Olympic sport will be the making of sevens.

It will mean countries such as the United States, Russia and China will want to win gold medals and will pour resources into producing champion teams.

Sevens rugby will certainly be far more global than traditional rugby.

And women’s sevens will quickly make its mark, too. The game is ideal for women, with emphasis on speed and quick thinking.

It’s just as well the sevens explosion is on the horizon, because even though New Zealanders are steeped in rugby, the fifteen-a-side game is becoming a bore, except on increasingly rare occasions.

The excitement of those first few years of professional rugby, in the late 1990s, is just a memory.

Before I finish, one question: sevens makes its first impression on the Olympic schedule in August, when it will be one of the sports at the Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China. Is New Zealand sending sevens teams to that festival?

Or do we still think our sevens boys will turn up in Rio in 2016 and master coach Gordon Tietjens will cast his magic spell again and we’ll win the gold medal? And that our women will win, just because they come from New Zealand?

 

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