Super Rugby Lives On: Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby Leaders Look Ahead to 2024 Season

Rugby Australian boss Phil Waugh is determined to speed up the game and keep the ball in play longer to win back disillusioned fans. Waugh is in Auckland for a Super Rugby Pacific interim board meeting with his New Zealand Rugby Union counterpart Mark Robinson, which many might describe as a crisis talk for the ailing code in Australia. While Super Rugby Pacific interim chair Kevin Molloy rejected the assertion that the competition was “in strife,” the heavyweights of the SANZAR alliance agree they must be proactive to stop the decline in interest. Molloy said Monday’s meeting was an important “starting point” in which the board brainstormed for hours about how to “reignite the flame” among fans, with boosting “fan engagement” considered an easy fix to help get the competition back on track. “I don’t think it’s fair to say we’re in strife,” he said. “But it’s fair to say that we are really cognisant of the fact that we’re not just competing with the powerhouses of the NRL and other major sporting events. “But we’ve got an entertainment industry out there and it’s tough for people at the moment. “It’s tough in terms of where they spend their discretionary dollar.” Incredibly, statistics showed that the ball was actually in play for less than half of the 80-minute match times during the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season. Improvements were made this year, with less intervention from television match officials (TMOs) but Waugh said even more tweaks were likely to be in store during 2024. With Australian wins over Kiwi opposition few and far between over the past decade and more, Waugh accepts improvement must be made by the ACT Brumbies, Queensland Reds, NSW Waratahs, Melbourne Rebels and Western Force for the competition’s integrity. Meanwhile, after a change in leadership at RA following McLennan’s ousting as chairman, Robinson tried to downplay any bad blood between the trans-Tasman neighbors. “There was enough said on both sides of the Tasman back then. We’re moving on. We certainly passed on our regards to Hamish and wished him well at the time of his resignation and we’ve welcomed Dan [Herbert] into the space and we’ll find the right time to spend more time with him as well. Very much focused on facing forward,” he said.