Dobson's Rugby Wishlist
I have a nightmare that I wish to swap for a dream, a death wish that I want to swap for a wishlist, so that I can exchange my fears for rugby’s future with more of the joy and excitement that has filled my life since reaching the age of reason.
It’s the time of the year for this sort of thing – January, time’s doorway with the past fading on the outside as the door opens on the sunlight of the future.
If Mr Neanderthal and Mr Cro-Magnon were around, they would tell you that living is far better now than its was in their inconvenient days. Things get better year by year and so we look forward in hope, even as we are aware of what went before.
January comes from the Latin word janua/ianua, the doorway, and the doorway had its god – Janus who had two heads back to back, rugged heads, one looking back and one looking forward. We are doing that -looking back to the past and on to a better future.
What I dreamt of is in a sense a return to halcyon days when people slept outside the ground to be able to get tickets for a Currie Cup match, when club rugby was followed with a passion, when playing rugby at school was a part of an educational package.
There were things wrong in the past that can be corrected in the present without creating a new set of problems. That would mean progress.
So here is my wishlist.
1. That rugby again have seasons – winter seasons, April to September in the Southern Hemisphere and October to March in the Northern Hemisphere.
This would not preclude inter-hemisphere contact – southerners going north in the northern winter and northerners heading south in the southern winter.
Having seasons could also give players better time to recover and also perhaps even a bit to time to make their own decisions and as they mature.
2. That there again be tours. This is where the inter-hemisphere contact would come in. They would not be those so-called tours – those ten-day, two-test affairs but proper tours – the B&I Lions in action in Potchefstroom, the Springboks in Leeds, England in Timaru, the Wallabies in Limerick, the All Blacks in Angoulême, Scotland in Wagga Wagga, Wales in Suva – that sort of exciting thing.
3. That Super Rugby teams be reduced from 18, or whatever it is, to 12, with everybody playing everybody else, and not in summer.
That would make for a proper place for domestic competitions. That could mean greater opportunities for promoting and developing club rugby. In South Africa it could lead to the restoration of interest in the great Currie Cup.
4. That the laws of rugby be so devised and applied that players can understand them and play with confidence.
5. That a real effort be made to reduce the tedium of stoppages
a. In this matter, the use of the TMO be stopped or much reduced.
b. That there be greater control of the influx of medics/water-bearers/messenger boys at breakdown after breakdown.
c. That the laws of the scrum be so applied that it again become a contest to gain possession, not a concerted effort to spoil the possession of the team ineluctably set to win possession.
By requiring the ball to be put in straight under the joining of the shoulders of the two front rows and that foot-up not be allowed, it may well be possible to reduce the incidence of reset scrums.
6. That camps of referees and coaches before the start of a competition be either scrapped or so organised that sudden emphasis on a particular facet of law application not occur.
7. That scrumhalf dawdling be discouraged.
It can be done by determining that the ball of out (of scrum, ruck or tackle) if the scrumhalf plays the ball.
8. That hugging, kissing and dancing be discouraged. It happens when a try is scored and even, more and more, when a team scrums well. The outburst of gleeful emotion suggests that success is a rare occurrence.
A better reaction would be a blank-faced return to position, making the statement that we have done this before and will do it again.
Enough, but there may well be more wishes to enhance the game that so many have loved for so long.