Currently to wear the silver fern on your chest whilst playing rugby you must be representing one of the following teams: All Blacks, Maori All Blacks, All Blacks 7s, Black Ferns, Black Ferns 7s, New Zealand under 20, New Zealand Schoolboys, Heartland XV and the 9th and 10th sides? New Zealand Universities and New Zealand Universities Women 7s.
New Zealand Universities has a strong history within New Zealand rugby having beaten the visiting British and Irish Lions in 1977, while more recently helping produce such All Blacks as Conrad Smith, Kieran Read and Sam Whitelock.
Now spread out New Zealand there are 8 universities, Auckland, AUT, Waikato, Massey, Victoria, Lincoln, Canterbury and Otago. However there are roughly around 20 campuses across the country.
Now you will be asking yourself why am I chatting about Universities, campuses and the silver fern and what does that have to do with sport.
Well there is a ready-made rugby competition just for the University clubs. So it is time to break away from the provincial union run competition and start this up?
How would it be run?
Each University would be required to have the following teams. A and B Men’s Team, Women’s Team and Under 21. Where they could run their own academy programs really build it around an American College program. Create high performance hubs for all the University’s high performance athletes. This could include a performance gym, hydro facilities for recovery, on site physio, a small indoor stadium, a couple of meeting rooms of various sizes so you could do 1 on 1 meeting or whole team meetings, good changing facilities and of course an area for the student athletes to be able to study in plus having academic tutors that can help assist over a broad range of topics.
The way the draw would work would be University against University. So for example all four teams from Auckland University would travel down to play away against Waikato University. Each team would have 7 home games, 7 away games and then 2 bye games. From there it becomes final time so there would be semi-finals and final. Simple and easy 1 hosts 4 and 2 hosts 3. Then why not host the final in the most University City in the world Dunedin. Imagine nearly 31,000 tribal university rugby fans packing out Forsyth Barr Stadium.
How would we do this? There is already a big demand from Sky Sports already covering live 1st XV High School. So potentially we could head down that path and selling the rights for Sky or Spark since they will want some live rugby coverage. They would have to show one University match up a week and then have highlights show during the week covering the other match ups. So this means that there would be at a minimum of 4 games live per week. Plus then the highlights show of the other games. That is a lot of screen time for players, coaches, teams, supporters and sponsors. That end group is the most important one. We are able to get some sponsors on board then it would help make it all happen.
The other option for the University Games is to go at it alone on the broadcast front. Use the internet to our advantage. Either live stream it on our own website and have a registration to access the live feed or set up a channel on Youtube where we can live broadcast games and more than one game at that. Easy to control interviews and introduce the characters behind the clubs. Commentating the games could be done by two professionals or listen into an alternative commentary team made up from a fan of each University. Imagine the banter that would go on during the Canterbury vs Lincoln clash.
Let’s ponder who you would put forward from your university club to commentate while we get the competition sorted to start.