More bonus points. More rugby

Keo, in his News 24 Column, writes that bonus points is what can redefine the Vodacom Super 14.

The competition needs an identity away from the Super 12. Monday night rugby is one option, but there also needs to be greater incentive for the teams to play a brand of rugby that sizzles.

In 1996 the Super 12 was different. For the first time ever teams played for the four tries and the bonus point and the emphasis was on attack and spectator appeal. Gradually, defence became the nature of the game and the spectacle soured. Winning became more important than winning with a bonus point for scoring four tries.

A decade later the addition of two teams to give the broadcaster more games in the pretty much the same time frame has done nothing to rejuvenate the competition.

Sanzar representatives continue to justify the expansion of the competition on the basis that something needed to be done as the competition was getting stale. More is not always better and there is an argument that the competition would have blossomed with a reduction of two teams to the Super 10.

It would have cut down on the travel, the length of the competition and it would have improved the quality because there would have been two less whipping boys.

But that is never going to happen because it does not suit the broadcaster, who wants more games for the dollar investment.

The Super 14 is here to stay and to whine about its structure won’t change anything. The challenge among Sanzar representatives in the next few months is how to spice up the Super 14 and create an identity that does excite the rugby follower.

I like the idea of Monday night rugby. It has been done in other codes and it has proved successful. Like all things, there would be a buy-in period, but to have matches on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday would ease the broadcasting burden and ensure greater ratings.

It would also make it easier to watch all the games.

To have three successive matches on a Friday or four successive matches on a Saturday devalues the viewership. The minority tunes into all four.

But if you had one on a Friday, two on a Saturday, two on a Sunday and one on a Monday (bearing in mind most of the time there are six matches because of the bye and not seven) there would be greater balance to the schedule.

It is doubtful Sanzar would agree to a team playing two matches in a week, as happened in 1996. This would cut down the length of the competition and mean it could start later and finish earlier, but players and coaches I’ve spoken to believe this would kill the player.

There wouldn’t be the recovery time and to achieve this teams would be maximizing their squads of 30 and the scenario would be that every second match you field your second team, which is a contradiction of what the tournament is supposed to be about.

Monday night footie is definitely the way forward, but more importantly is the type of rugby that gets played. The four-try bonus point has served its purpose.

There has to be greater incentive to the teams to play for 80 minutes. There has to be a system whereby teams can earn up to seven bonus points a match and not just the four.

Keep the first bonus point for scoring four tries, add an incentive that if a team scores six they can get two bonus points and if a team scores eight or more it is an additional bonus point. Scrap the bonus point for finishing within seven points of a team. Instead, give bonus points for tries only.

Currently teams, who score their four tries in quick time, pretty much stop playing. The coach rings the changes and the match invariably loses its appeal and intensity. More bonus points will keep the pressure on every match.

The team with the attacking mindset will always be rewarded. It pays to win 45-40 than to win 15-10. Seven league points has far greater appeal than four.

More bonus points for more tries will limit the option of kicking for goal. It will take the reliance of penalty kicks out of the tournament.

And for those who believe this will promote negative play and increase professional fouls, here’s the kicker. Teams with a poor disciplinary record will see it reflected on the log. Dock them points, based on these poor disciplinary records.

For example, three yellow cards for a team mean they lose a league point. Six yellow cards equal two lost league points and so you continue to punish.

What made the Super 12 exciting in 1996 does not work 10 years later. The solution is in bonus points and not bonus matches.