An NFL-style break ahead of the Super Rugby final could be the solution to help negate the impact of travel in the competition showpiece, according to Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson.
Historically in Super Rugby teams have struggled when they have to travel to play the final, with short turnarounds and long haul flights often involved.
This year the Lions will be the ones who have to make the trip to vie for the trophy as they face the Crusaders in Christchurch.
It’s a direct flip of last year’s final, which the Crusaders won in a rare victory for the travelling team.
Since 1996, just two teams have won the title from outside the top two in the ladder, a position that means they’ve had to travel for at least one sudden-death match.
The challenge of travel is especially acute in Super Rugby compared to other codes in Australia with trips to Argentina and South Africa required through the year.
Though all of those are a reality of a four-union competition, Gibson said the idea of a rest week could help lessen that when the competition reaches its finale.
The Lions will be trying to combat the trip this weekend by travelling mid-week to Christchurch and sticking to South Africa time in New Zealand, a tactic that helped them beat the waratahs earlier this year in Sydney.
In the NFL, teams have a week off between their conference finals and the Super Bowl and Gibson said it could help limit the influence travel has on the competition’s champions.
“Probably been always the disadvantage (goes) to the travelling team…often you would criss cross the globe and try to present yourself in the best possible condition to play and win a match,” he said.
“I think the idea’s got merit – the fact that potentially in the semi-final and finals format that it is extended and it’s something to consider.”
SANZAAR and the four partner unions are currently discussing the shape of Super Rugby into the next broadcast deal.
Currently, the window allowed for Super Rugby is only 22 weeks, limiting the ability to introduce a bye week before the title game but that could potentially change beyond 2020 when a new broadcast deal and a global calendar is introduced.
Waratahs flyhalf Bernard Foley said any solution that could reduce the impact of travel on the competition would be a good one.
“The team that doesn’t have to travel that much normally goes pretty well,” he said.
“There’s a long record showing the home team normally winning those knock out games.
“However they adjust the format or make it conference style whatever the administration has to do to try and make it a lot less taxing on the players.”
The Crusaders host the Lions in the Super Rugby final on Saturday August 4, kicking off at 5:35pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS.