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RUGBY FROM THE BUNKERS: Former two-time Junior World Cup-winning coach Eugene Eloff has dusted off his laptop and produced a lollapalooza for @rugby365com‘s readers.


The coronavirus has brought the whole world to a standstill and the sports world is also hugely affected by this fast-spreading virus.

Tournaments are put on hold, tours and events all over the world have been cancelled.

The buzz word now is ‘isolation’.

In South Africa, we are well aware and accustomed to that word, but in a very different context.

It stems from the time when we were isolated from the world of sport as a result of apartheid – from 1964 until it was abolished and we were back on the international rugby stage in 1992.


Besides huge financial losses on unions, clubs, teams and sports organisations, it has an impact on the game as a whole – throughout the world.

We are only now faced with the true reality of the situation.


We have to look at where rugby is now and where is it going?

Typical questions that pop up:
1. Is Rugby Union dying a slow death as a result of finances & sponsors?
2. Are there too much rugby played?
3. Are the player pools too big and are players earning too much money?
4. Why are most of the small unions bankrupt and some so-called big unions in financial trouble?
5. Why are the stadiums so empty?

The good news is, rugby will never die!

Fact is, now is the best time to reflect and regroup.


There is no doubt in my mind that World Rugby will have to look at the current business model and adapt it to the modern demands and challenges the game faces all over the world.

I am pretty sure SA Rugby is already busy with that process.

The system must be streamlined and simplified.

By implication, rules and regulations must be implemented in regards to salary caps and numbers of professional players that can be contracted, etc.

I think the time is right now for changes, not just for the sake of change, but to make an improvement, add value and synchronize with the evolution of the modern game and its administrative demands.

Maybe its time to privatise the rugby unions and run them like businesses – by top, capable, competent business people at the helm, who are appointing their own personnel.

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Let’s focus on the positive and probably the field I am most qualified to give my opinion in, as I am a bad politician.

We are currently the World Champions and nobody can take that away from us.

We have to build on the success achieved by Rassie Erasmus and the boys, and ensure that we will be a force again at the next World Cup.

That’s why we can not lose momentum now and need a mindshift, as well as to adapt.

Rugby has evolved, and there is definitely a new generation of coaches and players coming through the ranks.

There is a saying that the basics of the game will never change.

However, the dynamics around the teams, their strategies and tactics have.

If you, as a coach, has not stayed in touch and in tune with the changing times, the modernising of the game, you face a serious challenge.

Gone are the days of coaches barking instructions like a sergeant at training or on game day. Gone are the days of a coach spoon-feeding players like an old school teacher.

The “it’s my way or the highway” approach is also dated.

It is all about people skills, emotional intelligence and Rugby IQ.

The head coach becomes like a manager – managing the coaches, players and processes.

This is all built on creating a foundation/relationship of trust between coaches and players, surrounding yourself by the best personnel for the job.

Empower the coaches and players, then get out of their way so they can do the job.

The manager should facilitate the process and be on top of his game with great people skills and a strategic mindset.

He should also be a role model.

If we look at the current Super Rugby coaches in South Africa, it seems that Sean Everitt (Sharks) and John Dobson (Stormers) has it spot on.

The players are enjoying the rugby environment created by the coaches and their results show that.

At the Lions Ivan van Rooyen has a young management team and they are battling to find momentum and the results.

This is a game of patience, although that is the last thing shareholders and sponsors want to hear.

As I said to Kevin de Klerk, after a casual discussion, there may just be a lack of experience.

Pote Human (Bulls) has a more conservative approach that has always been part of their success.

They have been battling, but just as they seemed to get it right the tournament was put on hold.

One last thought.

I am concerned about the professionalism at school level, where competing and enjoyment should go hand in hand.

Some schools are actually training longer hours and more than professional teams do.

We should teach youngsters to enjoy the game, play it within the rules, work ethics and great skills.

Coaches should empower them with all the tools and skills (physical and mentally), should they have the potential to make it into pro rugby one day.

Then only the tough demands should start.

We have to plan their careers to ensure longevity on the field.

All is not lost, just yet.

Let’s get over this #COVID-19 curse so the rugby can start again.

It is empty and frustrating over a weekend, not being able to watch the game our great talent in action.

Hopefully, that happens soon.

By Eugene Eloff

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