When is it too many, and when is it too few? Or should we rather ask what serves rugby best?
I listened with interest to Boland coach, Deon Davids, following their defeat to Western Province over the weekend.
Now we all know how Boland suffered because of the Fidentia scandal where they now sit with no sponsor, trying to compete in South Africa’s premier domestic competition, the Currie Cup.
It also follows a conversation I had last week about the Currie Cup structures in South Africa, where I was told that the current structure is the best, because 6 was too few and 14 too much, and with these new structures we give the smaller teams a fighting chance to work their way up.
It was mentioned that if we give teams like the Valke, who beat Western Province a couple of weeks ago, some time, or a year or two, they will become very competitive. Now I’d hate to sound pessimistic but that to me will never happen. Rugby, under the current structures, will always revolve around the traditional big 5 unions.
Every single talented player these small unions unearth, is almost immediately poached by a big union or an overseas based club. A union like Boland for instance has already lost a couple of players and we are only about half-way through the competition!
It is simply impossible for these unions to hold onto talented players and start a building process. They do not have the money to compete with the big boys.
I also find these competitive matches in the beginning of the competition a bit of a false dawn on the issue of smaller unions now becoming competitive, because what is the bet the semi-finals will be contested between 4 of the top 5 big unions, and the relegation matches will be played by either Griquas, Valke or Boland?
All we are doing in South Africa is simply rotating or going through the same cycle year in and year out, possibly only substituting one minnow team for another if they get relegated – but the end result always the same.
Davids said in his post-match comments that all he can expect from his players, or look forward to as coach, are three training sessions a week of maximum 90 minutes per session.
I have seen clubs being able to do more than that, and this is for a team in our premier domestic competition? It is shocking.
There are many reasons these guys are struggling, and it would be foolish to ignore the fact that a lot of that is from their own mismanagement or corruption – but I just wonder how long South African rugby can afford to ignore this situation, especially seeing the amount of players our top unions are losing to European clubs?
I have maintained for a long time that I find it inexcusable that a country with well over 100 000 registered rugby players fail to develop at least 3 players of international quality in a position like flyhalf! Obviously somewhere we are missing talented rugby players falling through the web thanks to a bottle-neck effect we have created in our rugby where 5 unions alone control rugby financially, where we in fact have tens of thousands of players from 14 unions.
Just have a look at how New Zealand is suffering because of a player drain in their country!
I also find it shocking that a union like Boland, with over 200 clubs fail to be competitive, or how we can allow them to be uncompetitive.
Surely the warning lights must be flashing somewhere?
Deon Davids has to deal with some real problems down at his union, and it is in fact a miracle in my view that they are able to be even slightly competitive against other unions.
This is of course unlike the challenges Allister Coetzee sits with.
During the same post-match conference Allister again called for the media to have some perspective of the challenges he faces. He highlighted the fact that a union like the Cheetahs lost one or two guys from the team that competed in the Super 14, where Western Province lost 11.
Now I do have some sympathy for the former Bok assistant coach and the challenges he face because a lot is expected from a union that performed well in the Super 14 – but his challenges is not nearly as demanding or complicated as challenges faced by a Boland, or Valke or any minnow union.
Hell in a lot of ways his challenges does not even come close to that faced by Naka at the Cheetahs!
Just compare the teams or player base Allister has to that of Naka (WP has close to 90 clubs). Also take into regard that WP Rugby age-group teams won their respective titles last year and then most importantly, compare the budget they sit with.
Failure at this level, Allister’s level, is more a case of a union not being able to manage their structures (youth and clubs) correctly to ensure a constant influx of talent. It is night and day comparing that to the challenges a Deon Davids face, and possibly even a Naka.
For one I do not buy the reason Allister gives for Western Provinces average to poor performances so far. As a union, and what they have at their disposal, unions like Western Province, the Sharks and Bulls should be able to absorb the loss of 20 players and still be very competitive.
What was clear to me sitting and listening to both coaches is that something is seriously wrong in SA Rugby. To have two coaches, both under pressure talk about the challenges they face in the same competition, and comparing their challenges and reasoning, the future is anything but rosy in SA Rugby.
What is the solution? Hell, how long is a piece of string?Tweet