Hansen: NRL more interesting than Super Rugby nowadays

Former All Blacks coach and Rugby World Cup winner Sir Steve Hansen believes Super Rugby needs to make changes, with the NRL currently a better product than the struggling rugby competition.

The issue of fan retention for Super Rugby has been a constant for NZR and SANZAAR for years but after a short injection of numbers immediately after the Covid-19 pandemic, figures have fallen back to alarming lows.

In fact, just 12,000 fans turned up for last week's Super Rugby quarter-final between the Blues and Waratahs at Eden Park.

In contrast, almost 24,000 fans turned up to Go Media Stadium (Mount Smart) the week before for the Warriors' round robin game against the Dolphins.

Hansen told Newstalk ZB he feels fans are "falling out with a few things that are happening within the game" which are "frustrating" spectators.

"It can be hard to watch at times," Hansen said.

“There’s no dispute that Super Rugby has to change. It’s pretty predictable and still stuck where it was four or five years ago. You go through the quarter-finals and it wasn’t that exciting as you knew who was going to win.

"Some of the ideas that have been floated by New Zealand Rugby and Australia are quite good ones, so let’s hope people are more flexible enough and more open enough to hear those ideas and maybe put them in place."

Hansen added that flexibility was what had the NRL currently as a better product than Super Rugby.

”I look at NRL and New South Wales Racing and the guy in charge there, Peter V’landys, who has been really instrumental in making both these sports very popular. And his formula’s very simple. It’s all about what do the fans want, what do the participants want and give it to them.

“Both rugby unions need to sit down and really find out what it is the fans want and how we’re going to get them to engage in it and then deliver on that."

Game pace, despite being a point of focus for Super Rugby rule makers already with changes to the scrum and other time-grinding areas, continues to be an issue, Hansen said.

"[NRL] is a better game to watch on TV than rugby is, because it’s not stop-start. They apply a lot of common sense to how they adjudicate things and make sure the game keeps some form of flow to it.

"Our game over the last five years has got slower and slower and slower. But that’s because they’ve gone out and listened to what the fans want and then applied common sense to it."