Skinstad: 'SA fans have a hint of jealousy towards Irish Rugby'
SPOTLIGHT: Former Springbok captain Bobby Skinstad says South African fans have gradually changed their perceptions of Irish Rugby over the years.
In many ways, Skinstad believes that fans in South Africa view Ireland as the benchmark when it comes to the management and leadership side of the game.
The Irish have gradually built strong foundations for their teams in the last 20 years and they have reaped the rewards.
It can be seen in their trophy cabinet – with four Six Nations titles (two Grand Slams) since 2009, while Munster and Leinster have won six Champions Cup titles between them since 2005.
Leinster also won the last four Pro14 tournaments.
Ireland has certainly come a long way since they were the whipping boys in Rugby Union and Skinstad believes South Africa has taken note of that.
“I think the perception has evolved and I think that results have determined part of that evolution,” said Skinstad.
“I genuinely think that South African fans have got a hint of jealously at the administrative organisation and cohesiveness of Irish rugby, where a small rugby-playing population in a competitive environment have continued to have good results at provincial and international level.
“I think that we as South African see that as effective management and leadership.
“Rugby in Ireland is incredibly well run and it’s a good example of what South Africa could aspire to.
“That’s the one side of the argument.
“The other side of the argument is that South African talent is probably at one of the highest flows – if we are talking about ebb and flow – that it has been in a long time.
“We’ve got a lot more talent coming through our schools, Varsity Cup and junior systems.
“Does this tournament [URC] mean that we will just feed international clubs and teams?
“I personally think the opposite. I think competing in this environment means that our players will now have a chance to window dress themselves to the world of rugby.
“They will also then be able to remain competitively focussed on playing for South Africa as opposed to heading off to Ireland, disappearing for five years and popping up on the other side with an Irish cap.
“I think it [URC] actually ticks a lot of boxes for the South African rugby public.”
#⃣INTERVIEW: @Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber talks after the completion of the first week of the team’s training camp!
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Local versus Overseas
Meanwhile, there have been debates among fans in South Africa about whether the Springbok coaching staff should be selecting more players from the URC squads.
Japan has become a popular destination for a growing number of Boks and there are questions on whether it’s a positive or a negative to have some of those players performing at lower intensity levels.
When asked if there should be a rule change to reward locally-based players, Skinstad responded: “I am certainly not an advocate of making rules when you don’t need them yet.
“My opinion is that the URC is a better place for players to be playing because you see them week in and week out.
“Japanese coverage is still light in terms of day-to-day rugby viewing. We get highlights packages, but I am sure the coaches doing the selecting will get a chance to see their players play.
“The URC and European rugby, in general, is across all the televisions.
“I am not a fan of imposing something because we feel we need to have a rule.
“Let us wait and see how what kind of Springbok squad Jacques [Nienaber] and the team at SA Rugby get out of this tournament and out of this season
“Let us see how they perform and let us assess after that whether we are going in the right direction or not.”