The 2016 Super Rugby competition is different to anything it has ever been before - not only has the format been completely turned on his head, but we have also been introduced to a couple of new franchises, including Japan’s Sunwolves and Argentina’s Jaguares. So let’s try and explain this. The 18 teams will be split into groups geographically. The Australasian Group includes a split five Australian franchises, and the same number of New Zealand franchises. Although not the Japanese side, despite it being an Australasiangroup! The South African group is filled with eight teams, six being the South African franchises, and the other two places include the Sunwolves and the Jaguares. The two groups are then split into four conferences. An Australian conference and a New Zealand conference include their five teams in each respectively. There are then two South African conferences of four teams each, with the first including the Sunwolves, and the second, the Jaguares. Following it so far?! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqcUEPagRrM On top of all of this, is the overall standing, which holds all 18 teams. Crystal clear? Good. Moving on swiftly. Teams will play six intra-conference matches; in the four-team African Conferences, each team will play the other three teams in their conference home and away, while in the five-team Australasian Conferences, each team will play two teams home and away and will play once against the other two teams (one at home and one away). The other nine matches will be a single round of matches against each team in the other conference in their group, as well as against each team from one of the conferences in the other group. For 2016, the teams in Africa 1 will play the teams in the Australian Conference, while the teams in Africa 2 will play the teams in the New Zealand Conference. (Side-note, the explanation above was so confusing that I turned to Wikipedia for help!) After this, the leaders of each conference will automatically qualify for the quarter-finals, and the eight places left will be filled with the next top three teams in the Australasian group, and the highest finisher after the winner of the South African group. And that’s about it! Are you feeling dizzy too? Have a five-minute break then come back to us. A Little Bit About Last Year Ah, last year, back when things were so much simpler! Ahead of the Rugby World Cup in England, teams were going gung-ho, not only to win their side some silverware, but also individuals were trying their best to impress national selectors. We saw the return of troubled traveller, James O’Connor, although the clip below will sum up how his return to Australia went. Needless to say, he did not jump on the plane for the Wallabies World Cup efforts. Another winger who flew back down-under was funny man and self-proclaimed ‘Honey Badger’, Nick Cummins. Like O’Connor, the flyer wasn’t selected for Australia, though he still wasn’t short of a few one-liners to keep his loyal fans happy. David Pocock made his return from two long-term knee injuries, and was in fine form, carrying the Brumbies to the semi-final. His compatriot Michael Hooper, also led the Waratahsto the same stage. The pair would later link up in the back-row in a World Cup final. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jr_cokK5AKQ Across the Tasman, in New Zealand, it really was a story of young and old. We had the young of electrifying newcomers like Nehe Milner-Skudder, who later went on to win the Breakthrough Player of the Year trophy at the World Rugby awards, and the old, in players like Dan Carter and Richie McCaw. The two Crusaders had a massive weight on their shoulders, as Kiwis were desperate to make history and win two consecutive World Cups. I don’t need to remind you of the outcome of that. We didn’t know at the time, but it would be the last time the two All Black centurions would feature in Super rugby. Over 11,000km West, in South Africa, there wasn’t too much to shout about. The Stormers were fantastic in their pursuit of the trophy, finishing third in the overall standings; however, the Brumbies comprehensively beat them in the last eight. On a lighter note, we did get to see more of the exciting youngsters the South Africans have coming through the ranks. Centres Damian de Allende and Jessie Kriel both performed admirably, whilst Cheetahs second-row Lood de Jagertowered above others both in height and form. The eventual winners were the Highlanders, who sneaked past fellow Kiwi side, the Hurricanes. The big question is, can the Dunedin side replicate their achievements this year? Predictions for 2016? It is strange season to predict, with legends missing and rookies by the barrelful. The Brumbies look to be the team defeat on paper, after crushing 2015 finalists, the Hurricanes, in the first round, though I wouldn’t rule out the Wellington side just yet, as their squad is jam-packed with talent. Another to look out for is Argentina’s Jaguares. Their squad is almost a carbon copy of the national side, and with players like Agustin Creevy and Santiago Cordero, you can be sure they will be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.
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