Oz gains, rugby loses
THIS year's final Super rugby standings exposed the flaws of the regional system, which rewarded the Reds with a home play-off berth even though the Australians had the fewest points of the six qualifiers.
As winners of the Australian region, the Reds secured third on the overall standings behind the South African winners, the Stormers, and New Zealand leaders, the Chiefs, even though they had fewer points than the fourth, fifth and sixth-placed teams.
Greg Peters, chief executive of the SA, New Zealand and Australian Rugby alliance, defends the situation because it is "unique".
But being unique is not an excuse for denying it is flawed, and arguably weakens rugby in the southern hemisphere, and in Australia in particular.
Although the current structure has rewarded Australia with a home play-off, does it benefit Australian rugby across the board?
A quick glance at the standings from each of the three regions reveals that Australia's region is the weakest by some distance.
And, as a consequence, they are developing a losing culture.
Three South African teams had more points than the Reds - the Stormers (66), the Bulls (59) and the Sharks (59). In the New Zealand region, the Chiefs (64) and Crusaders (61) had more and if the Hurricanes didn't have to play four matches against those top two Kiwi sides, they would probably have earned more than 57 league points.
The five teams in the New Zealand region scored a combined 264 log points. In South Africa that number was 247 while the Aussies contributed a combined 210 points.
The New Zealanders won 46 matches and lost 34 while South Africa had a total of 42 wins and 38 defeats.
Australia's region produced 32 wins and 48 defeats.
If these logs were compiled with only the eight matches played across regions then the Chiefs would have topped the table with the Stormers second, the Crusaders third, Hurricanes fourth and the Bulls and Sharks in fifth and sixth.
The Brumbies would have been the highest-placed Aussie side at seventh and the Reds would have ended ninth.
Coaches from New Zealand and South Africa have said regularly that the Australian region is the weakest and the numbers back up that assertion. In a chance meeting with a Rebels player this weekend, he revealed that the feeling among players was that Australia should only have four teams.