Earlier this week the Ruan Pienaar issue raised an important issue in South African rugby; “Just how do we get people on the same page?”
It is not new.
National coach has a plan and his ideas on how to be successful, provincial or union coaches too, have their plans and ideas on how to be successful. Unfortunately more often than not, they have a very different idea or plan and this leads to a total communication breakdown between the national coach and provincial coaches and results in players having to adopt as they move between national and union responsibilities.
Rugby is a professional sport, success of coaches are measured by what they achieve on the field, and that means winning trophies, and as much as union coaches would like to assist the national coach in accommodating players in certain positions, or resting key Bok players, it is not always possible.
I have often though why success at a lower level cannot drive success at higher levels, and also why success at higher levels compliment deficiencies at lower levels? Yes there will always be a few snags and differences of opinion on players and playing styles, but to be successful you need to be fed through successful, and winning structures.
A lot of it comes down to on how our structures work in South African rugby.
There are two main areas are of concern to me, firstly the lack of communication and continuity at national level and Super rugby level, and secondly, our centralization of our rugby resources.
A lot has been said about the role of a National Director of Rugby (NDOR). To me, this is not even negotiable, it is an absolute necessity.
Too often do we see successful age group level coaches, teams and players fall totally by the wayside when they make the step up to senior level simply because there are no control mechanisms in place to ensure continued development and effective communication in the best interest of coaches and players. This, together with the management of our top 150 professional rugby players and coaches at Super rugby level is an absolute necessity.
Also, for a country with hundreds and thousands of registered rugby players, I find it particularly disturbing that we cannot unearth talent to for instance, fill the Springbok number 10 void we have been sitting with for almost a decade now, but also more importantly, effectively ensure transformation occurs at all levels without having to cosmetically force, or socially engineer numbers or players at all levels.
So two major problems exist. We do not have a person to manage the professional structures in SA Rugby effectively (NDOR that oversees and manages the structures and teams, coaches and players at SA U/19, SA U/21, Emerging Boks or SA A Team, Super Rugby and senior Springbok Rugby), and secondly, de-centralize our rugby structures outside of the 5 major unions to include all regions in South Africa for rugby development, and talent identification.
For the most part I do not see SA Rugby doing anything wrong, other than the fact that they at some stage have to admit and realise, they cannot successfully oversee all of this and then still hope to achieve results in all those areas as they simply do not have the manpower or finances to do this.
SA Rugby needs to adopt a structure of micro-management where they should oversee the professional management of all these levels of rugby mentioned.
To do this SA Rugby needs to appoint a NDOR or group/panel to manage the national, and international arms of rugby in South Africa, or for a better word, nationally contracted players and coaches. This would include all the Springbok age-group level teams, coaches and players, as well as the management of the Super rugby franchises and coaches.
Effectively, this will or should mean that all our national players at all levels, as well as our Super rugby elite players (which will be part of this pool of national players), will be centrally contracted to SA Rugby through its direct channels and commercial arm, as well as a two-tier contract system for players not on a national contract but part of the Super rugby elite player pool.
Crucial in the sustainability of this plan however will be the independence of the Super rugby franchise from any major union in South African rugby.
Up and till now I imagine most would have liked the above proposed solution, but what follows will arguably leave me losing over 60% of people and their support!
For rugby in this country to stay competitive in the professional environment we will need the cash reserves or finances to ensure not only continued identification and development of local talent, but also retention of our physical and mental (knowledge base) resources. This means we will need a shit-load of cash.
South Africa has 6 major regions where rugby is concerned.
The Western Cape (currently Stormers), the Southern and Eastern Cape (currently Kings), the Central and Northern Districts (Cheetahs), the East Coast (Sharks), the Gauteng midlands and South Eastern Gauteng (currently Lions), and the Northern Gauteng and North West Province (currently Bulls).
These 6 regions represents all 14 union members currently under the SA Rugby flag. However, where we totally missed the boat in my view was to marry each of these regions, or franchises, to a central province in each of those regions.
The net effect was that the 5 major provinces enriched themselves through the lucrative deals and benefits Super rugby brings, BUT at the expense of the smaller unions who has no hope in hell to ensure growth and development and self-sustainability in competing with the traditional Big 5.
This effectively ensured that we created a bottle-neck effect in South African rugby, where close to ½ million rugby players can only develop successfully into top class professional players, through 5 unions only. You do not need to be Einstein to spot the problem here.
The only way to effectively de-centralize this current structure, is to have the 6 franchises operate completely independently from any one union, but actually act as the mini-SA Rugby of each of the regions (and unions) it represents.
These franchises should be privately owned and managed under the guidance and partnership (stakeholder) of SA Rugby and obviously still conform to the constitution and unionized rules of the National Governing Body (SA Rugby/SARU).
The unions of each region will be commercially managed by each franchise of the region, where the responsibilities of development, structures, transformation, etc. all now becomes part of the franchise’s direct responsibility and that of their board of directors.
The main aim of each independent, and privately owned franchise will always be;
a) To ensure they make a profit, and
b) To ensure a winning brand and culture is created in their franchise, feeder unions and lower structures of clubs and schools
I will not go into this in detail in the article but I believe you will see the idea behind this is that finances generated by the franchises will be re-invested in their own regions and structures to ensure continued development of talent and producing top class players and coaches.
The unions are obviously still affiliated to SA Rugby and directly responsible for the clubs and schools in their specific regions and areas, but similarly to how SA Rugby will micro manage the regions, so too will the franchises ensure under their management, funding and guidance that each union manages what they are directly responsible for.
You will also see that this moves to a scenario where there is a clear split between the amateur arms of rugby, and the professional arms of rugby, both of which is absolutely essential, but needs to be clearly defined as to their roles, power and responsibility.
All this could, and should effectively ensure, that the different rugby entities, personalities and groups pull in the same direction, where continuity, communication, and sustained success on the pitch will be the ultimate goal.Tweet