Andrew Gourdie: Why winning Super Rugby really doesn't matter

Everything is geared towards All Black success in Super Rugby, writes Andrew Gourdie.
Everything is geared towards All Black success in Super Rugby, writes Andrew Gourdie. Photo credit: Getty Images

OPINION: The Super Rugby season is upon us again and we can expect New Zealand teams to dominate a competition which is a structural shambles, but still the best in the world.

New Zealand teams have won it five out of the last six seasons, but that's no measure of the strength of New Zealand Rugby. The thing that really matters is how our All Blacks perform on the international stage.

For New Zealand Rugby, the purpose of Super Rugby is two-fold: to ensure our current All Blacks are playing at the highest possible franchise level to prepare them for international rugby; and to transform players with potential into stars who can excel for the All Blacks. Everything is geared towards All Black success. The All Blacks brand, the broadcast and marketing revenue it produces, is vital fuel for the game in New Zealand. Its future depends on it.

Crusaders coach Scott Robinson.
Crusaders coach Scott Robinson. Photo credit: Getty Images

None of us need reminding that if ever there's been a time when New Zealand Rugby's getting it right, it's now. After a drought lasting 24 years, New Zealand's won back-to-back World Cups. New Zealand teams have won 15 Super Rugby titles, and none of them mean nearly as much as those two World Cups.

So if Steve Hansen wants to run a camp - several camps even - during the Super Rugby season, then he should go right ahead. Rather than the camps impacting the ability of Super Rugby coaches to do their job, I would have thought the more players you have at these camps is a key performance indicator that you're doing your job just fine.

The coaches have lost sight of the goalposts on this one. The trouble is, they're the only ones whose goalposts happen to be winning a Super Rugby title. Players can be selected for the All Blacks off the back of a strong season for an under-performing franchise, but a coach's success or failure is determined by whether they claim that title. Having one on your CV might improve your chances of becoming the next All Blacks coach if you happen to be the right man at exactly the right time, but given there are five franchise coaches those chances are pretty low. The likelihood is that a Super Rugby title merely enhances a coach's earning potential with foreign clubs and international teams.

Andrew Gourdie: Why winning Super Rugby really doesn't matter

The ironic by-product of Super Rugby success is the intellectual property carried by title-winning coaches is likely to leave our shores. Dave Rennie, Jamie Joseph, now Chris Boyd. What good is that for New Zealand Rugby?

If you don't like a national coach messing in your business, then you probably need to question whether you're the right type of coach for a Super Rugby franchise under the New Zealand Rugby model. The top-down approach is less than perfect - no question. But given the challenges facing NZR as it seeks to compete with more financially powerful rugby nations and competitions, this is the way it has to work.

Super Rugby is a crucial base layer of professional rugby in New Zealand, but it's not the icing. Winning is a bonus, but Kiwi franchises have a far more important role to play for the game as a whole. For everyone involved except the coaches, winning Super Rugby doesn't really matter much at all.

Andrew Gourdie is a sports reporter/presenter and host of Radio LIVE's Sunday Sport from 2pm.