I have been looking forward to this tour since the end of the world Cup. The first game of rugby, I ever attended was as a 12 year old on a Wednesday afternoon, when the all conquering 74 lions took on the Quagga Barbarians at the old Ellis Park, and but for poor refereeing they would have lost their unbeaten record, it was the front runner to the Piet van Zyl’s of the world and the ref, a Mr. Ian Gourlay, was assaulted and pelted with naartjies after the game, the passion was something I had never experienced before. The Fly half was an unknown up and coming 19 year old, Peter Kirsten and his inside centre Gavin Cowley. The game left a huge impression on me and I have played and been a fan ever since.
Now I ask, what an opportunity, SARU have just missed out on ,getting families and youngsters to a game so they too could be taken by this game that we love so much, but the greed that is so much part of our society today, was far more important than investing in the game for the future, by enticing youngsters interest and converting them into Rugby lovers with a sense of the good old traditions of the game, a tour that only comes around every 12 years is something special and SARU have failed miserably in promoting the wonderful values of the game.
SARU saw “pounds “ and lots of them and bumped the prices up to the extent that nobody would spend that amount of money to watch a game, especially in the light of the economic crisis, they basically have put the game beyond the average SA family, and definitely out of the range of the previously disadvantaged Kids who can barely scrape enough money for a meal, let alone a game of rugby, yet this is the next generation of Rugby players and spectators, who they supposedly want to attract to the game, and who are so important for the future of the game. There seems to be a lack of communication between the development department and the marketing department, because eventually the two go hand in hand and without players you don’t have a product. Yes I know they will always have players, but will they always have fans with an intimate knowledge and love of the game and traditions or am I just old school and must face the fact that those days are over, maybe!!
The other area I think SARU failed dismally in, was the itinerary, and again I understand that it is a congested calendar at international level and there are only certain windows for such a tour to take place, but people have been waiting for 12 years, you don’t start the tour out in the gramedoelas on the same week-end as the Super 14 final or did we not expect any of our teams to make it. I think it would have been an ideal start if the had played the Super Kings down in PE, obviously I have the benefit of hind sight, but here is an area that has not seen top flight rugby for a while, it was obvious you would get a fairly decent crowd in, imagine if you had charged affordable prices, what you would have achieved, a sellout crowd, but instead we go to a stadium which with all due respect to the Bafokeng people is in the middle of nowhere and granted the Super 14 final definitely had a bearing on the numbers, but people do not want to travel so far to watch a game of rugby and the Bafokeng tribe would probably have been happier if Bafana Bafana were playing soccer there rather than rugby, so take it to an area like the Eastern Cape, where people are interested in Rugby, again its about developing a love for the game, much easier if you are already keen!!
I can’t blame SARU for the Golden Lions debacle, but I can blame them for not releasing the Boks for the games against the Lions. The Lions should have faced provincial sides with there regular players, this tour only happens every 12 years it is not going to kill these players to play a couple of extra games , have SARU learnt nothing from the Curry Cup, when the Boks play the crowds come, when they are depleted sides they don’t, very simple, happens every year. The Lions deserved that respect and SARU should have afforded it to them.
If the Lions tradition is to continue and I for one hope it does, then the British Lions committee need to have a meeting with the home union, they are playing and lay down their expectations to them. SARU also have to take a long hard look at themselves after this tour and ask was it a success? Did they achieve what they wanted? Why are the crowds dwindling? Is it time to follow the Aussies and have blackout stadiums in the home town on match day, not sure M Net would be all that keen, but the dwindling crowds must be an area for concern. I have loved the hype and interest around the Lions Tour. I think Ian McGeechan has delivered a tour, he can be proud of, the traditions that broke down so badly under Woodward, have been restored and hopefully the players who have toured will go back and spread the excitement and what a privilege it has been to become a Lion. I for one hope I will be around in 12 years time, to witness the next tour!!Tweet