Almanac Rugby: Heaven Plays On


After a winter of hibernation, I’d like to ruminate on the state of play in the game played in heaven. For those precious weeks in February and March when Super Rugby had the football Gods on their side, it was wonderful writing weekly wraps of some high class sport. When the competition ran into the inevitable brick wall, the game’s administrators scrambled for a reboot in the Covid world.


The trans-Tasman solution of parallel SR tournaments hasn’t been a bad replacement. The Kiwis got out the gate first with Super Rugby Aotearoa featuring a home and away round robin of their five teams. As expected, the rugby was of an exceptional standard played in front of full houses. As Jacinda and her team had seemingly expunged the scourge from that fabled land, sending Covid the way of snakes, people were allowed to cram into rugby grounds cheek by jowl. The sight of fast, open rugby played in front of cheering fans was a joy to behold.


In terms of outcomes, the second incarnation looked remarkably similar to the first. The Crusaders were clearly a cut above and the Blues can proudly wear the tag of most improved in 2020. For a bit of fun, they also reinvigorated the North v South game and, yes, rubbed our noses in it with a consummate display of how this great game should be played. Good thing there is no Bledisloe Cup this year as it may be just a tad embarassing.


On this side of the ditch, the pussies at Rugby HQ squibbed on one-upping our cousins by going with Super Rugby Gondwana, preferring the safe option of Super Rugby AU. Our friends in Sydney are not known for throwing caution to the wind.


As we only have four local SR teams, our estranged brothers from the West got a guernsey. The Force made up the numbers but couldn’t register a win. The round robin stage is complete but RA is desperate for more games so we have a finals series coming up. The Reds host the Rebels in Brisbane on Saturday with the winner going to Canberra a week later to try and knock off the Brumbies for the title.


The quality of the contests in the local interregnum has been good overall. While the future of upcoming SR competitions is unknown, it has been an affirmation for the game here that we can soldier on and give hope to all those desperately hoping for sunnier days.


The third pillar of Southern Hemisphere rugby is one of salt at the moment. South Africa has made it patently obvious they see their future in Europe. Unable to mount their own SR version this winter, they are putting all their efforts into looking for sunnier climes above the Equator.


In those sunnier, Covid riddled climes the main competitions have restarted. Pro 14 picked up where it left off with just a few rounds to complete and will conclude this weekend with the freight train, Leinster, looking to pummel the damsel in distress, Ulster. Premiership Rugby is putting on a brave face by restarting its competition and allowing small crowds back into grounds. Considering the explosion in cases across the UK, it is a bold social experiment. While I heartily concur with the sentiment that rugby is the game played in heaven, I doubt if I would expedite my trip to the Pearly Gates just for a foretaste from the boundary line.


Peering through my bedraggled lockdown mop and bleary eyes, I see the game here on terra firma in reasonable shape. Rather than worry about the afterlife nor lofty hopes of world domination, there are blokes running around fields saying, ‘Hey, look, the 15 a side game prevails’. Thank Heaven!


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Grew up playing the rugby codes in suburban Sydney. Moved to Melbourne during the Carey era so becoming a Shinboner was the natural call. Still love the game they play in heaven. Took an interest in MLB a few years back and have become infatuated with America's pastime.

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