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Optimilisation of a model for SA Rugby

OPINION: Erudite Springbok turned pundit Dawie Snyman is back with another of his elucidative and disporting columns.


For the game to function optimally in order to serve the current needs there are three extremely important aspects that need to be considered cautiously and with much insight and oversight.

The history, a workable hierarchy and economic survival are of cardinal importance.

Cognizance of these three aspects can provide a long-term survival policy that can be taken out for the game.

If not, there can possibly be a shorter and stormy lifespan for rugby in the offing.

1. History

The history and reason for the existence of the game is of cardinal importance. A rugby organization must never be alienated from its roots because the reason for its existence will always play an essential role in the survival thereof. The origin of sport, or games, was and will always be rooted in a social-community context with the game as binding factor. It binds people that have been brought together as the result of their participation therein. That goes for both participants and spectators alike.

2. Hierarchy

Here we have to do with the model for the development of players (human material) that can possibly play on a professional level in order to make a living. To ensure this possibility, there must be a normal flow of human material through the game. The system must be capable of providing the players with the necessary schooling (training) to ensure that they can develop to the highest level of the game in order to enable them to compete optimally on the playing field. This schooling model must be positioned in such a way that the necessary qualities of strength vs strength can compete to develop the players and also ignite the imaginations of the spectators.

This model must also contain a promotion-relegation function so that the different levels represent a quality-driven competition that is driven by real market forces to ensure a future featuring true strength vs strength in South Africa. The competitions must derive from geographical means in order to ensure cost-effectiveness so that the current needs may be served. This means that the normal market forces can develop spontaneously in future to ensure strength vs strength. The principle of such a free- market system can develop to its fullest consequences over time. Remember that this model must be capable of withstanding the evolution of time. There are certain population and demographic realities in South Africa today that developed spontaneously and that were not present in the same geographical context in the past. The move towards urbanization is but one dimension of this reality.

The competitions must thus be presented at different levels as they represent different markets each with their own specific needs. E.g. A (International). B (Provincial), C (Districts or Towns), E (Juniors or Schools) etc. There are different levels at which the game’s development needs to be adapted. This division of the hierarchy is not necessarily the Alpha and Omega of a future dispensation. New systems will and must develop from this so that the needs of time can be satisfied in terms of the corresponding market forces. No one can expect that any given system must exist for the future of time.


This system must have a factor of promotion and relegation built in so that teams can move between levels and centres of gravity of community movements, numbers and qualities of the game can be accommodated.

There needs to only a single hedged competitor, namely the International A-Level of Springbok rugby. The wider the base of the pyramid, i.e. participation of the game at different levels, the better the performance of the game at different levels of the pyramid should be given that the correct attention (training methods and competitions) is given to the players in the system.

3. Economic survival

The third and very important aspect of the game is the economic survival and viability of each participating organization. Similar to a free economic model, each organization must be capable of being run professionally without restrictions and hedging. The geography of where the game is being played will not necessarily determine the quality of the product. The standard of delivery is determined by the quality of the product as a result of the business model of the specific organization.

And now the commercial side of the story. The specific organization as described above must be a financially viable one in order to ensure survival. Its products must therefore be utilized in a profitable manner. And as such, the game must also be representative of the process. From the smallest company to the large businesses. The game cannot be deprived of its principles.

The future economic success of the game is definitely located outside the box and not in any given model as it is being managed today. A good example of a success story in this context is that of Manchester United that is currently a listed company on the London Stock Exchange. Each organization should be capable of structuring its own economic model. There will, without doubt, be smaller models in future that will outdo larger models solely as a result of better management and optimalisation in comparison to larger models. And that is how it must be.


People are the most important asset of a rugby organization, but also potentially the biggest risk. Each participant taking part in the organisation must make a larger contribution to its economic activity than that which they take out. Otherwise, the model cannot work. Simply put: the stadium cleaner, field gardener, administrative clerk, executive manager, president, coaches and players must follow suit. If I am an investor that owns the club I need to make a return on my capital investment. My initial investment of ZAR100 must grow on an annual basis. Then my stream can keep flowing. If my stream flows stronger as a result of successes I will retain my investment in the sector or increase it. If there is no profit, I must review my investment by means of innovation or withdraw.

The next question is how to organize the structures in the system as there are only 52 weeks in a year. The sun must be able to shine on each of the levels and – the pinnacle of the rugby pyramid – the Springboks, must be involved throughout the pyramid. That means that the systems must associate, synchronise and talk with one another from Junior to Springbok level. This does not mean that the Springboks have to be involved for 52 weeks of the year all over. But each of them must be committed at each level throughout.

(Continue reading below … )

As an example of the above, the following:

* International rugby which is the biggest asset to SA rugby, must be looked after and the Springboks should not play more than 26 matches in total per annum. There should also be a four-week rest period built into the plan. There must also be a six-week conditioning period as a pre-season programme. It will optimalise the players’ careers and thus rugby’s largest source of potential income in the international market. The Springboks should play approximately 19 percent of the available 42 playing weeks of the year:

Thus eight Tests per annum. The top A-class Springbok thus participates in eight matches.

* Super Rugby is viewed as a very important schooling platform for future A-class Springboks. Approximately 19 percent of the available playing time should also be allocated to this level. Thus, also 8 matches and the A-class

Springboks should only participate in 6 of these matches, thus totalling 14 matches. The B-class Springbok may play all 8 matches bringing his total to 8 plus the matches he may be selected to play at the higher level.

* The Currie Cup Competition is the engine room of development of SA players in order to enable them to progress to the highest level. In this competition they will play a maximum of 16 matches:

The A-class Springbok must participate in 6 of these matches which brings his total 20. The B-class Springbok must play in 10 of the matches and will thus participate in 18 matches plus those that he may me selected for at Springbok level. The Currie Cup player thus plays all 16 matches.

* The Premium Club Competition represents a level that is of utmost importance for the development (and especially also the psychological development) of competing players as they are also going to play against Springboks and Currie Cup players. The clubs also act as a supporting and feeding base to players eager on promoting to Currie Cup level. Their matches should be played in the beginning of the season:

The A-class Springbok must participate in 4 of the matches per annum bringing his total matches to 24 in a single year. The B-class Springbok also plays 4 matches, thus 22, plus those he gets selected to play for the Springbok teams. Currie Cup players must play 8 of the 10 matches in this competition. They therefore play a total of 24 plus those they play in the Super Rugby competition and the Springboks.

A secondary club competition can be organized after the first two months of the season so that club players can still participate for a further 10 to 14 matches so that the economic activities of the club can remain in tact.


It is important that each competition that forms part of the pyramid as described above is self-sufficient to enable it to have a reason for existence in the free market system.

For an economic activity to function optimally, we also need to ponder the potential limitations in the current SA rugby model.

The aim of the view as expressed herein is to stimulate further thought and discussion so that the wonderful game of rugby’s continued survival can enjoy the attention that it deserves:

“You do not have to change. Survival is not mandatory” – W. Edward Deming

By Dawie Snyman

Previous columns

Lack of ethics in the game
Real problem with the law

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