29 May 2020

Let’s have a trophy that symbolises Super Rugby Aotearoa

9:14 pm on 29 May 2020

Opinion - To the victor go the spoils, but just what will the winner of the rebooted Super Rugby Aotearoa actually receive?

Jaguares captain Jeronimo De La Fuente and Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock pose with the Super Rugby trophy ahead of the 2019 final.

Jaguares captain Jeronimo De La Fuente and Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock pose with the Super Rugby trophy ahead of the 2019 final. Photo: Photosport Ltd 2019

The tournament, kicking off on 13 June, isn't a direct replacement for the usual Super Rugby competition, so the regular trophy that the Crusaders have so many of can't be awarded this time around.

To echo the words that have no doubt been floating around the Beehive for the past couple of months - let's not waste this crisis, New Zealand.

Let's make something cool and unique that gets held up at the end of this (admittedly, probably by the Crusaders again).

Rugby, unfortunately, has a very patchy history with trophies. There is a definite trend that the older and bigger they are, the better - with the prime examples being the Ranfurly Shield and Bledisloe Cup.

They are both iconic pieces of craftsmanship, with the Bledisloe able to hold somewhere around two dozen beers and the Log Of Wood requiring several rounds of maintenance over the years due to damage inflicted during victory celebrations.

Meanwhile, the Rugby World Cup is actually a bit of a dud. While golden in lustre, it has the ignominious origin story of being a complete afterthought by the original organisers - a leftover bought from a shop across the road from their office on the eve of the tournament.

Then there's a myriad of forgettable sponsorship plaques and trophies the All Blacks have picked up over the years that probably cause New Zealand Rugby (NZR) a few headaches when it comes to finding a place to keep them all.

So here's our chance to move away from that sort of same old silverware.

There are a couple of outside the box trophies floating around, like the rams-horned Farmlands Cup (played between the Crusaders and Highlanders) or the gigantic number 11 carved in wood Jonah Tali Lomu Memorial trophy that Wellington and Counties-Manukau contest. Let's keep the thinking heading in that direction for something like:

The Golden Jandal - to honour Super Rugby's famous summertime start date, the jandal is the footwear of many a kiwi fan who walk through the Eden Park or Sky Stadium gates in February and March, who then will watch the Black Caps play at the same venue a week later.

Regional statue replicas - one of the big critiques of Super Rugby is that it doesn't do enough to represent the smaller provinces, so this can be at least acknowledged by the winners receiving a miniature version of their area's most iconic town statue.

The Rakaia Salmon, Ohakune Carrot, Taihape Gumboot, Te Puke Kiwifruit and Cromwell Fruit Selection all at least represent four of the teams, the Blues might just have to go with the SkyTower in lieu of anything amusing in their region.

Flipping the Bird - a metal hand with a raised middle finger would pay tribute to two of Super Rugby's most historic events.

Firstly, Andrew Mehrtens showing the fans at Loftus Versfeld how much he enjoyed kicking the winning dropped goal against the Bulls in 1999, then also Carlos Spencer giving it to the Lancaster Park faithful after a famous Blues victory in 2004.

Christian Cullen perpetual replay trophy - there really is no debate that the Paekakariki Express's 1996 try for the Hurricanes against the Waratahs in Sydney is the greatest Super Rugby try of all time, and played a huge part in launching the competition's identity in its inaugural year.

An iPad replaying Cullen's 99 metre effort on loop would be a fun interactive prize to be held aloft at the end of the competition.

Repurpose the giant Tri Nations trophy - in this age of sustainability, it's important to use what we've already got.

The infamously huge original Tri Nations trophy, which is now being used as a doorstop at NZR headquarters as it is too big to fit in the actual trophy cabinet, could be sanded down and renamed for a comeback appearance.

The victory lap with it will be slow, though, as it is extremely heavy.

Dedicate it to the essential workers of Aotearoa - this one is a serious suggestion: a trophy paying tribute to the medical staff, courier drivers, supermarket workers, emergency personnel and everyone else who kept us going by doing their jobs.

It would go a long way to instilling a bit of goodwill back into our national game, at a time when it's desperately needed.

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