'You want to play the best': McKellar calls for trans-Tasman Super finals series

Super Rugby - AU
by Christy Doran

As New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia attempt to draw out a trans-Tasman competition for 2021, Brumbies coach Dan McKellar has lamented the fact that a makeshift final between the two nations won't be played in 2020.

After kick-starting on June 13, Super Rugby Aotearoa will wrap up on August 16 when the Crusaders travel to Auckland to take on the Blues at Eden Park, with no finals series included.

In contrast, Super Rugby AU got under way a month later and the 10-week competition will wrap up on the first weekend of September, before a two-week finals series where the winner of second and third take on the round-robbin winner on September 19.

The September 19 finish will allow a three-week uninterrupted run-in before Bledisloe 1, with NZR and RA working towards an October 10 opener.

As Super Rugby AU finishes, New Zealand's much anticipated North v South fixture will be played on August 29 before the Mitre 10 Cup starts on September 11.

Yet McKellar, whose Brumbies side is in the box seat to win the minor premiership, says it's a shame that an overall trans-Tasman winner won't be known in 2020.

"It'd be nice, it'd be nice to see (a trans-Tasman Super final)," McKellar told reporters on Thursday.

"You want to play the best. I think the issue there may be around scheduling and time that's available between the end of both competitions and obviously the Test series.

"I think that's what will stop that from potentially happening.

"It'd be good to have, but I doubt it'll happen just because of time."

Even if a final isn't played in 2020, rugby league has shown that a World Club champion can be found the next year with the NRL premiership winner annually heading north to the UK to take on the Super League winner.

It's something McKellar says must be looked at going forward with rugby.

"I think all of those things need to be taken into account moving forward," he said.

"Can we have the best of the best southern hemisphere post your own Super Rugby competition? I think they're all things that need to be considered."

While New Zealand's Aotearoa competition has showcased the strength and depth of talent running around, Australia's four Super Rugby sides showed a vast improvement against their trans-Tasman opposition in 2020 before COVID-19 ended the competition.

The Brumbies and Rebels both won across the ditch beating the Chiefs and Highlanders respectively, while some wayward kicking cost the Reds a famous win over the Crusaders in Christchurch after outscoring the three-peat champions four tries to three.

Meanwhile, Hurricanes CEO Avan Lee's request to include a final in Super Rugby Aotearoa fell on deaf ears.

Lee confirmed he mooted the idea to NZR but the governing body eventually settled on a first past the post system to decide the overall champion.

The decision means that with two rounds left in the New Zealand competition, the Crusaders can wrap up the championship on Sunday when they host the Highlanders.

"I do think fans love a final so it's just balancing those different factors to get the right decision. We accepted that and moved on," Lee told stuff.co.nz.