Wed 14 Feb 2018 | 03:10

Solipsistic authorities the downfall of SA rugby

Solipsistic authorities the downfall of SA rugby
Wed 14 Feb 2018 | 03:10
Solipsistic authorities the downfall of SA rugby

After last year's double round – that should have been six teams to reduce congestion – the SA Rugby Union will shortly announce a single-round Currie Cup of seven teams – to finish before Pro14 starts – to give the Cheetahs the chance to win it.

SARU's propensity to go from crisis to crisis knows no bounds, seemingly, without any form of accountability and recourse.

The game seems to be so ineffectually administered, in a financial mess, but on every level there seems to be a crisis without any form of decent stewardship.

One would suggest even, under these 'custodians', the game is at its lowest ebb in South Africa for many a year.

Should you think this to be emotional, the easiest place to see, and entirely measurable, is to look at the stadia.

And the SARU balance sheet.

Too many professional players, too many unions, too little money, shockingly administered national flagship and poorly thought-out competitions to put it bluntly.

The recipe is toxic.

One questions whether the most simplistic organization would do what the national body has just done with national coach?

Whatever the merits or demerits of his tenure, to have Rassie Erasmus doing the Bok coach's preparations (and effectively replacing him) before he had his agreed performance review, would have breached Victorian England's labour relations act … as well as being morally unsound.

The latest fiasco, which will emerge shortly, is the effective, through selfishness, ending of the Currie Cup.

Once the source of national pride we have been covering on this site over the last few years, it's tragic painful death throes and our national body are about to announce its cremation.

One understands the growth of Super Rugby and the effect that that would necessarily have on the Currie Cup, but in 2018 to proffer a tournament that is smaller than both the Varsity Cup and domestic Challenge Cup is an insult to its proud tradition, to such an extent that it is better probably to just cancel it.

They could award the Currie Cup to the top SA franchise in the Super Rugby.

The year 2018 will see the fifth Currie Cup format change in five years.

How much thought has gone into it? How much respect is shown for this venerable tournament?

In 2016 we had the fiasco of the SARU boasting that there were more Currie Cup games than ever before – through those ridiculous Currie Cup qualifiers.

In 2017 we probably had the most palatable tournament in recent times, in that we had a double round of what should have been the top six teams.

However, as usual petty union self-interest and votes – a result of the self-interest of the administrators – ensured it became seven teams, which meant that some games had to be played midweek and during the Super Rugby season to fit in the tournament.

Why it was seven and not six teams?

It is no mystery. There are some self-interested blazers who need votes and could not afford to ostracise the smaller unions.

The Pumas had to be in again.

We have the situation in South African rugby whereby a union with just two clubs has as much say as a union with over 100.

SARU will doubtless (let's wait for the press release) say that the 2018 edition will be focused, intense, exciting, not overlap with other competitions and Test matches.

Read through this doublespeak.

They want to get it finished and done before the Pro14 starts, in order that the Cheetahs can compete in both competitions.

Again, another unions' interest and vote counting weighs more than what is in the national interest.

The rugby public of South Africa would have to satisfy themselves in September and October watching those traditional thrillers of the Kings versus Treviso and the rest of Pro14.

October has traditionally been the month when the Currie Cup comes alive.

SARU will be removing this from our menu this year.

The 2017 Currie Cup did take a while to get going and the start was slow, but over the last three to four weeks there were some outstanding performances and some matches of great interest and excitement.

More importantly, we saw the emergence of the likes of Lukhanyo Am, Warwick Gelant and Wilco Louw – who went on the end-of-year tour based on their performances in the Currie Cup.

This new version will never ever get going, and is simply too short.

Each team will play six games. And if you're a major union, you run the risk of the two newest 'franchises' (Pumas and Griquas – whatever that means) as being your two of the three home games.

It is not going to sell tickets, suites, season tickets, the tournament will crash.

It's very sad.

The South African rugby public has a voracious appetite for the game and the rich understanding of the tradition of the Currie Cup.

Yes, we can point to small crowds, but this is a trend across all levels of the game except maybe at school boy rugby.

One would suggest viewership in the Currie Cup was excellent and probably the biggest challenge facing our unions is hard to get people into to the stadiums.

There will be nasty side effects to this toxic idea.

One of which will be: Why would a player a stay in South Africa for this Currie Cup lite tournament?

He would be looking to end his contracting after Super Rugby to try and get a European medical joker or Japanese gig?

The answer is of course he will.

Would this new tournament provide the same high profession high-pressure performance environment Test-like semifinal and Final environment in order to produce new young springbok talent? Of course not, not in that format.

The standard will drop as less and worse players appear in it.

There is no ways you can finish before the Pro14 and say that games won't clash with a Test.

We think, again, SARU are being disingenuous here in that that match will be just be on a different day on the same weekend, meaning of course the Currie Cup will get lost.

That is fine, as it is the trend in modern rugby, but one must realize this so-called lofty ideal of not having the Curie Cup clash with other competitions, is in essence referring to be over and done with and after way before the Cheetahs and Kings head back to the Pro14 – who are, apparently, having serious reservations about the expansion to include SA teams, as it has watered down their competition.

Once again the case of the union with the votes, getting its way at the expense of the national good.

Of course somebody needs the votes to retain his position and thus his stipend. It's hard to see of any other rationale behind this irrational move.

There is no doubt that the best format would be a six team competition over a double round.

That would mean leaving a Griquas or Pumas out.

The power of these swing votes and the unseemly haste to grant them franchise status just go to the heart of the problems of how the game is constitutionally structured in South Africa.

The national good is irrelevant.

What is best for 'me and my union' is all that counts.

And whatever gets stuffed up along the way doesn't matter.


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