SANZAAR made right call to return to 14-team competition

Despite some impressive performances, the Sunwolves have been axed from Super Rugby from 2021. Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

It was great to hear some good news last week with the reversion to Super 14 rugby and some possible changes to the game's laws.

While the Sunwolves have been on the improve, and picking up what we could call rugby mercenaries, Super Rugby is not in the best interests of Japanese rugby.

It's different if you get Japan Rugby Football Union onside, but I think it is the right call. SANZAAR have gone around the mulberry bush a couple of times when anyone with half a brain and a little bit of common sense could have said, right from day dot, why not have everyone play everyone so you get the outcome that reflects what has been a true competition.

So common sense has finally prevailed. It has taken a few years and some disenfranchised and rather annoyed fans to get a result that everyone probably knew should have happened to begin with.

What has happened under the extended competition has been a dilution of talent.

Super Rugby came about because we wanted super rugby and we wanted the best players and best combinations where any one team could take out the competition in any year.

What we are seeing at the moment, in 2019, is a rise in the standard which is probably due to the fact it is a World Cup year and everyone is trying to put their hand up. What we want in those in between years is the best talent pool, the best players available and maybe we bring in larger squads to help with injuries and the development of players.

I'm happy we've gone back to a 14-team format because we'll finally see a lift in the standard of rugby we want to watch.

With the introduction of the 'new' laws being trialled, there's been plenty of good news all in a week.

The new laws appear to be doing away with the jackal play, the move where players get over the ball at the breakdown, and instead are moving back towards traditional rucking.

I think if we could bring back traditional raking with a backward motion with your feet over the ball by players bound as they go into the ruck, we could have an exciting game of rugby.

No one likes to see a ball being taken into contact then it come out the other end when no one saw what happened and how the ball got there. Clearly it was a result of hands in the ruck and ever since Webb Ellis allegedly picked up the ball and ran that was against the laws of the game. In recent times you have needed to have x-ray vision to get a look at what is going on inside that breakdown.

As soon as the ball hits the ground, if people flying in are able to rake that ball you're going to get a quicker game, the rucks will be tidier and with players having to bind to go into a ruck there are less forwards standing in the backline which creates more space for the backs.

What teams have been getting away with lately is they have only had to commit two or three players to a breakdown, but with this new law, you are going to have to get all the forwards there. If you allow your opposition to fly in and ruck the ball back, by wedging straight over the top, you're going to turn over possession every time. You'll need to match numbers with numbers, and we are going to get space out wide, as Earle Kirton would say.

It was after the introduction of professionalism that they started tinkering with the laws. The game had, in fact, been pretty good but we got to 1997, 1998, 1999 and there were constant changes. By the time my career finished in 2005, the game had changed dramatically and it is still consistently changing. I think going back to a bit of the past is not a bad thing.

I still think some of the best rugby we watched was in the mid-90s with the laws the way they were. But I struggle to think of a law introduced since then that has actually made the game better. Apart from tweaks to laws around the collision area, I can't think of any that have actually improved the game.

But the moves they have announced look like positive steps so we will have to wait and see how it pans out.

Looking back at the weekend we saw some impressive rugby being played out.

A few weeks ago we said the Chiefs weren't far off from some good rugby. They were suffering from silly mistakes, but their huge win over the Bulls in Pretoria demonstrated they were never far off from their best. With Brodie Retallick stepping up and leading the way, it was a massively impressive performance and it was great to see him back in fine form and seeing his teammates follow his lead.

To go to Pretoria and punish a sloppy Bulls is not easy. There's been some soul searching and some looking within their squad, and those small tweaks they needed to get on the board, they've managed, and maybe one of them was getting one of the world's best fullbacks playing at fullback.

What they need to do is not what's right for the All Blacks but what's right for the Chiefs. I see Chiefs coach Tabai Matson has come out and said that is where they need Damian McKenzie, that's where he looked good.

What I liked about the Blues against the Highlanders is they have some forwards up front who bring a bit of fear to the opposition, the likes of Akira Ioane and Patrick Tuipulotu and that gritty loose forward Tom Robinson. Robinson was outstanding, he's just that tough guy who is in your face and everywhere. It was a shame he didn't score his try, but he typified to me the heart, hunger and passion that the Blues need.

It was great to watch and I also think the halfback Jonathan Ruru and the first five-eighths Harry Plummer have added a little more direction. Ruru's speed of passing and clearing the breakdown was something that's been missing. It was the unselfish stuff that you want a halfback to do, get there and get it out quick. The Blues are certainly on the right track in my mind.

I don't think anyone saw the hurry up the Waratahs gave the Crusaders coming. But I've said it before and I'll say it again, it's 2019, forget Australian teams in the past, and South African teams, they're all waking up, everyone wants to be selected. That makes for a great competition.