Sevens the answer to SA's rugby drought?
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: @rugby365 reader and self-proclaimed “rugby fanatic extraordinaire”, Neil Mac Ewan, provides a solution for South Africa’s rugby drought.
We entered Round Seven of Super Rugby riding the wave of the Rugby World Cup.
The Sharks were playing exciting ruby, the Crusaders building strongly gaining momentum for their second half of the tournament (as they classically do).
The Chiefs were rocketing along, buoyed by the confidence they have in, arguably, the best coach in the world and the Blues were finally winning games. (I knew Barrett would only join them the second half of the tournament but couldn’t help myself scanning the field for him every time they ran on to the field).
What a season it was panning out to be!
Then the biggest anti-climax ever experienced by the rugby fraternity, some virus puts an indefinite halt to all rugby. Fans, players and clubs all shocked as announcements were made that no date can be set for a return to playing.
There were scenes of players and former Bok coaches stranded at airports trying to get back to families and announcements that organizations would lose billions in revenue.
Rugby Australia boss Raelene [Castle] was sacked. The Twilight Zone couldn’t come up with a better plot than this.
So why am I rambling on about something we all know, why am I kicking the hornet’s nest and stirring all these emotions that every fan must feel?
It’s because I’m sick and tired of them saying we cannot play rugby, that there is nothing on the T.V. except Baby Bum, cartoons for the kids and some crazy Tiger-man on Netflix.
But I’m not here to whinge. I have found my voice! It is better to suggest a solution, (yes, we have heard of potential solutions before).
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Everyone has heard of closed-door rugby matches and that over 100 personnel are needed to fix a Super Rugby Game, six weeks training needed before a return, etc. Let us be honest, the overall feeling is that it is not going to happen.
Well, there is a format that can work for rugby everywhere. It is Rugby Sevens.
We already have a world Sevens format whereby the team tours and plays at one stadium over the entire weekend.
Most people watch Sevens on TV, even when they have tickets to the game. They mostly watch their own team live and go back to the beer tents and watch on the TV from there.
Viewership would not be a problem and after the cold turkey we have just experienced, rugby fans the world over will have eyes glued to their screens.
I propose that six teams, the Bulls, Cheetahs, Kings, Lions, Sharks and Stormers, playing in one stadium, say Cape Town Stadium. They already cater for the World Sevens Series and there are some nice hotels that would probably welcome an injection of guests for two weeks.
Why so long? Well, quarantine instituted in Europe is of a two-week duration. I’m assuming the same will happen in South Africa. Thus, the teams would meet two weeks before and commence training in a closed environment, quarantined together. They would play the tournament for the weekend, giving millions of viewers, their rugby fix, boosting broadcaster revenue in the process. Afterwards they return home and self-quarantine, like many workers are currently doing.
But will they play? The players have been home, having quality time with the kids and let us give them some credit. It would be nothing out of the ordinary from what they were meant to do by touring NZ and Australia. They might even suggest a second weekend tourney.
South Africa needs to act fast; New Zealand are going to be first to the market and are already training together. We all know that they are ahead of us with isolation, so are the European countries but that just makes my point of a local Sevens tournament that much stronger.
The fans, the players, the sponsors, the clubs, the hotels and the broadcasters need it, so let us do it. Most of all I freakin need it.
By Neil Mac Ewan
Rugby fanatic extraordinaire