A recent discussion between an myself and an acquaintance prompted me to assess the general mindset in South African rugby.
The person I spoke to said he recently met a sports marketing agent, and what was interesting for him is how he did not realise that we have come so far in sport in South Africa.
I reminded him that rugby in this country has been professional for a good 15 years almost so it should be hardly surprising that certain individuals make their living of promoting the game, and players from the game for financial gain.
He then asked how I reckon we compare against the likes of the same sports marketing agents in other professional sports and all I could do was smile…
I know I have covered this topic to boredom in the past on the professionalism in SA Rugby, but having read a recent article by one of the better rugby writers out there, Dan Retief, I was again reminded of something I said (I am sure Dan stole it from me!) a while back on how we conduct ourselves as professionals in a sport worth millions, and how even failure is celebrated or how we celebrate mediocrity.
Dan in his SuperSport column wrote: “Each team plays 13 matches and you pretty much need eight (8) wins to reach the last four – the unpleasant reality being that finishing fifth is as good as ending up in 14th place.”
Pretty much what has been mentioned before that even though one of our teams finish a South African best 3rd or 5th, they are nothing more than the best of a bunch of losers. They might be better than the next team, but they are still losers.
It got me thinking on the South African teams who are constantly ‘re-building’, or on an ‘upward curve’, or going through a ‘transition’ period, or (enter your own cliché here).
Of course in large the ‘system’ in which competitions run under the guidance of either SANZAR (Super 14) and SA Rugby (Currie Cup, etc.) allows for these ‘bragging rights’ or feelings of content for teams, coaches and supporters of the specific teams whether that is ending 3rd, or 10th.
It does raise questions however on how professional our approach is in the expectation of any team (specifically South African for the context of this column) for the Super 14 each year. One or two of our teams have ‘realistic’ expectations or goals of reaching the play-off’s every year, while the rest ‘aim’ to end in the top 10!
Is this really good enough for professional institutions or teams?
Just what does it say about teams like the Stormers, or Lions, or Cheetahs who have been in this competition for 5 to 12 seasons now? Are expectations of ending in the top 10 or top 7 really good enough or should we insist that the level of professionalism is lifted to that of; “Top 4, or don’t even bother pitching up please”?
Of course we cannot expect all four or five of our teams to end up 1 to 5 on the log, but my question is really more to the approach of these so-called professional setup’s where they ‘aim’ for mediocrity masking behind every conceivable clichéd excuse one can imagine.
Perhaps it is the system that needs changing, where the fear of loss is not only confined to the scoreboard or log every end of the season, but also directly influence the organisation itself, through a lower league relegation system.
In the real world failure over a period of 5 years (or even less) is simply not tolerated, there is accountability.
Every day I hear about how we want to know how coaches gets hired and fired year in and year out (being blamed for losses and failure), yet the professionals sitting in the boardroom and in the offices directly responsible for the product (rugby) being delivered by said organisation, remains the same…
I think the answer is quite simple isn’t it?
The system does not allow for real change or change where it matters. The scariest part of all this, is that the only people that can really affect a change towards a more professional structure, are the ones protecting the current structures of mediocrity for very obvious reasons.
So forgive me if from this day forward, I laugh at anyone who dares put the words rugby and professionalism in one sentence.Tweet