Joel Stransky suggested this week that South Africa should ditch two of their Superugby teams this week arguing that weak provincial sides foster a losing mentality. I have always greatly admired Joel and think his insights into rugby are logical and knowledgeable but I do not agree with him here.
He suggests getting rid of the Kings and the Cheetahs most probably because both of these two teams results in this year’s Superugby were dire. By casting off these two extra teams and filling the remaining squads with quality players Joel envisages this strengthening SA Rugby.
I don’t think this will benefit SA Rugby in the long run. I argue that even though our talent is spread so thin because 350 professional South African players are plying their trade overseas and the players remaining in S.A now have to make up 6 Superugby squads makes spreading the talent even thinner, we still have the talent and players to make up these 6 squads. The problem lies with coaching and administrating the sport.
The Kings should be a priority for Saru to invest time, money and effort in if they are truly committed to transformation. It is the region where black players have been playing rugby for years and it is not a case of introducing them to a new sport, it’s a case of a system already existing. Saru should be assisting with the spending power of the Kings. A solid core of players needs to be established and the best coaches found to move this region into the big time quickly.
Quotas have done nothing but upset everyone, it’s a bad idea. A better idea would be to work with what you have and develop it quickly.By introducing or promoting rugby to black players should be viewed in terms of increasing the player pool rather than white people handing over their sport to black people.
The Cheetahs have provided players to other unions for years. There has never been a union that has lost players at such a consistant rate over such a long period and in such great numbers to other unions. Saru again should step in and help out. If this means central contracting then so be it. Players need to be kept in Bloemfontein. The Cheetahs showed in winning the Currie Cup this year that with a bit of continuity they are able to achieve much. Not only did they win the Currie Cup but the rugby they played was excellent.
The Lions have built up a team of Bulls and Sharks discards and players that no one would give a second glance at, yet they had an excellent Superugby campaign and a few of those players have pushed on to gain national colours. The reason for these players that no one wanted rising to the top is because of good coaching and an administration working hard to keep these players at the franchise.
The franchises have to start behaving like professional outfits. They need to be far more ambitious about making money, this should be a matter of extreme urgency. Empty stands are unacceptable, standards of rugby need improving with an emphasis on entertaining. Families need to be encouraged to come down to the grounds. The culture of rugby in SA needs a renaissance. Bringing the people to the grounds needs to be addressed. Having a few spectators half interested dotted around a mostly empty ground is bad for the game.
Franchises need to be proactive in bringing in the crowds whether it be deals for families or putting on extra games or providing a bit of entertainment or having competitions on matchday or having celebrities in attendance it needs to happen now. Bums on seats will pay for the revival.
Coaching is a huge factor, and needs addressing as we saw in 2016 the standard of coaching in SA has fallen well short of what is required. The key to making it all work for S.A is the coaching. This is where a revival will start from. Somehow staying in South Africa to further your rugby career needs to be more desirable than going overseas.