Now with the 2015/16 Super Rugby season in the books it is time to reflect back on what has been a controversial season to say the least.
As the league administrators attempt to expand the reach of the league to new markets with the inclusion of the first ever Japanese and Argentinian teams in the form of the the Sunwolves and Jaguares, there was a clear split in opinion as regards the benefit of this to the league.
While the increase in quality rugby now available to the Japanese and Argentinian players is undoubtedly a good thing for the overall game in both respective countries, as well as the increased interest from these markets as a result of their involvement; many of the ‘old-timers’ of the league are less than satisfied with the subsequent dilution that the league has endured with many more matches being played that were lacking in quality and intensity.
From an Australian point-of-view it was one of the worst Super Rugby seasons in living memory as their franchises were heavily outclassed by their South African and Kiwi counterparts. To put into context the sub-par standard of the Aussie conference, table toppers Brumbies finished behind all but one Kiwi side on overall points, the discrepancy of which will have to be addressed in order to promote a fairer qualification system into the playoffs in terms of critical home-advantage.
The South African conferences were a strange one as each group were afforded a near guarantee five pointer when facing the Argentinian and Japanese newcomers, while SA group 2 finalists Lions also had the Kings in their grouping who served as another comfortable outing for most side.
While this is not to discredit the Lions’ run to the final, as they were well were their admission with some impressive victories over two of the Kiwi-elite in the playoffs; this blatant disparity in quality within groups paints a poor picture of the structure of the league considering the New Zealand franchises had by far the toughest schedule of the league given the hot-bed of talent that persists in Kiwi rugby.
To their credit the Kiwi sides oozed class throughout, providing the seasons best rugby and match atmospheres and in all honesty, probably saved the season from stale, faltering performances and receding attendances and viewership in the majority of the remaining continents.
While the autopsy of the 2015/16 season is set to continue and in more depth, for the meantime let us take a look at what have been ranked by Sky TV and The Breakdown as the five most ferocious hits of the season just passed: