That term was so beautifully coined by legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson in the late '90s, to describe the added pressure that is piled on when results, not performances are imperative. With that ratcheting up of pressure normally comes some added excitement too.
Was it just me though or did the first round of qualifying matches seem rather a damp squib?
Rather than drawing breath after a roller coaster ride of attacking rugby, I found myself stifling the yawns. Both games were of a reasonable quality but they were also a little underwhelming; not the feast SANZAR representatives would have been hoping for when the Crusaders-Bulls and Reds-Sharks match-ups were confirmed.
Time for a change?
The Crusaders trampled over the Bulls with a surprisingly pragmatic gameplan, often using one off runners or a simple kick-chase ploy. The Bulls were left befuddled by it, especially as the Crusaders combined it with their usual peerless work at the breakdown; to devastating effect. It was accurate stuff and executed clinically but Todd Blackadder's men didn't exactly inspire awe in the way they went about securing victory.
While the Sharks played with a little more verve in Brisbane, their upset win over the reigning champions was hardly a classic either.
Maybe it was my lethargic state, but I can't help but feel that Super Rugby could do with a shot of adrenaline. There are certainly benefits to the new conference system, no matter the misgivings of some fans or the laconic rhetoric from Sharks coach John Plumtree during the week, about the favourable returns for a team playing in the Australian Conference.
|John Plumtree told media that Australian Super Rugby sides needed to get up to shape quickly|
I wouldn't want to revert back to the old Super 12/14 format of playing each team once, but do we really need the Force, Rebels and Lions? Bar the odd result, they add little intrigue to the competition. God help us if the Southern Kings make their much anticipated entrance in the coming years too. That decision just reeks of politics.
Although one can admire the hard work put in by Eastern province President Cheeky Watson, the move it seems is misguided. They cannot attract top players and would be likely to suffer just as much as the other recent admissions into Super Rugby, perhaps even worse.
So, how about getting Argentina, Japan and the Pacific Islands involved? One team from each nation would seriously freshen up the competition and commercially it could have a great effect. Aren't SANZAR always talking about maximising the commercial possibilities?
Los Pampas Vodacom Cup victory was a good foundation
SANZAR have already opened up the door for Argentina to compete in the newly named 'Rugby Championship' this year. That was seen by most as a defining moment in Southern Hemisphere rugby and a significant step in the development of rugby as a genuinely world-wide sport. It was also might I add completely warranted, given their recent results and the tireless campaigning of key figures, such as IRB Hall of Fame inductee Agustin Pichot.
Why not therefore further the alignment between domestic and international rugby and find a way to get them involved in Super Rugby too? It would help make Argentina's transition into the Championship more seamless, given the fact that most Argentinian professionals ply their trade in Europe and won't have played for over two months by the time of their opening game of this year's tournament. Surely that is a significant hurdle to overcome?
|Agustin Creevy carries the ball for Los Pampas in 2011 Vodacom Cup|
We have seen an Argentinian representative in South African domestic rugby over recent years too and they have adapted well. Los Pampas won last year's Vodacom Cup against the Blue Bulls, becoming it's first even non South African winner. The tournament may be used by South Africa as a feeder competition for the Currie Cup, but it shows that an Argentinian team could feasibly be a part of a South African conference in a revamped Super Rugby competition and importantly, it could flourish.
Bucking the trend of young Pumas heading to Europe
An Argentinian representative would need to gain access or at least have the ability to lure some of its best players though. The trend of young Argentinians heading for Europe in search of a professional career in rugby is not slowing down.
Last week Top 14 giants, Stade Francais, signed up Argentina U20 captain Juan Cruz Guillemain (who led the Pumitas valiantly to 4th place in the Junior World Championship) for their campaign next season, along with his fellow compatriot and starlet Lisandro Gomez Lopez.
|Argentina's U20 Captain, Guillemain, plucks the ball out of the sky against Italy in Junior World Cup|
You can add them to a stellar list of names already running amok in the Aviva Premiership and Top 14. Just a portion of them would make a strong franchise.
As for Japan and the Pacific Islands, the reasons for their inclusion is obvious.
Japan brings the dollars, a new market and would be a good springboard for when they host the IRB Rugby World Cup in 2019. Their inclusion would be a no-brainer, especially given the favourable time zone.
The Pacific Islands meanwhile are a heartland of rugby and deserve help. It seems ridiculous that Fiji for example will embark on their Northern Hemisphere tour later this year without a sponsor. For a side blessed with such rich history and heritage, it is quite astounding. They need help from SANZAR or we might see the Pacific Islands slipping out of the international rugby net altogether.
Can you imagine the atmosphere of a Pacific Islands team playing Super Rugby in front of a raucous crowd in Suva or Apia or Nuku'alofa too? That is something I would get up early for. Christchurch couldn't even turn up for a quarter-final.