The Sharks Sharkie

Too Much Rugby – What Is To Be Done (Part 1)

Written by Austin (The Sharks Sharkie)

Posted in :Original Content, Reader Submissions, Super Rugby on 11 Jul 2011 at 11:39
Tagged with : , , , , ,

The very first Super 15 season has just reached its grand conclusion (well done Reds!!!) to what has been an extremely long and exhausting tournament for the players and fans alike. We all need to sit back and reflect on the positives and negatives of the new Super Rugby format. One notable negative point that I think most of us will reflect on is that there is simply too much rugby being played which has led to increased injuries as well as player exhaustion. This has of course led to poor quality rugby being produced in many of this year’s Super 15 fixtures, including the first two knockout games which usually produce high quality rugby. Fortunately the semi-finals and final made up for the dour quarterfinals, but the problem of too much rugby remains lurking and certainly should be on the forefront of SANZAR’s season review.

Personally – and I don’t think it is only me – it feels like the whole rugby year has gone by, and the Super 15 champions have just been crowned! Can you believe that there is still the Currie Cup, Tri-Nations and Rugby World Cup left to watch? If as a supporter I feel tired already, imagine what the players must feel like! The end of the Super 15 has brought a sigh of relief from many supporters because it has finally finished, yet it should actually be leaving fans fresh and hungry for more rugby.

Imagine what Springbok legends like Victor Matfield (105 Test caps), John Smit (102 Test caps), Bakkies Botha (72 Test caps), Bryan Habana (68 Test caps), Jean De Villiers (67 Test caps) Schalk Burger (63 Test caps), Jaque Fourie (62 Test caps) and Fourie Du Preez (55 Test caps) must feel like! They started playing rugby when it was still relatively new to professionalism and have only ever experienced increases in rugby games being played since making their Currie Cup, Super Rugby and Test debuts all those many years ago. Matfield probably needs two calendars – one for all the rugby fixtures and another for all the remaining rugby fixtures!

To give you an idea of how full their calendars are let’s take a look at the 2011 Rugby Calendar for top Springboks. It includes 16 regular season Super Rugby games with a possible extra 3 (playoffs, semi-finals and final); 4 Tri-Nations test matches (note there are 6 tests in a non-World Cup year) and 4 definite Rugby World Cup test matches with a possible extra 3 (quarterfinals, semi-finals and 3rd/4th playoff or final). Then there is also the incoming and outgoing tours to consider (and the odd, once-in-every-12-years, B&I Lions series) although neither take place in a World Cup year.

It is not only the top Springbok players who experience a gruelling 2011 Rugby Calendar, although they probably have it the worst. Remember that only 30 players from South Africa’s massive pool of talent will go to the World Cup, so effectively 90% of the pro rugby players in South Africa are left behind to compete for the Currie Cup, in which they will play in a definite 16 games with a possible extra 2 (semi-finals and final).

Players that did not cut it for their Super Rugby franchises won’t be completely rested either as they will have participated in the Vodacom Cup, a physical competition even if it isn’t recognised as an ‘elite’ tournament by the major media giants of South Africa.

John Smit and Fourie Du Preez have seemed a shadow of their former selves in the Super 15 tournament this year, and they are but two examples of senior players under-performing. I think the reason for their poor form is quite obvious – they are tired. Imagine how Victor Matfield and Schalk Burger must feel as they’ve played nearly every minute of the Super Rugby season for their respective franchises. They are going to arrive at the Springbok camp dead men and will most likely be buried if they aren’t given a proper rest (luckily they are injured and will get a short break).

This line of thinking raises an interesting question. Are the Super Rugby coaches responsible for resting Springbok stars? The answer is a definite “no”. John Plumtree is paid by the Sharks to bring the right results and to do so he needs all his Springbok stars in the unforgiving competition of Super 15. Plumtree’s bread and butter comes from the Sharks’ not the Springboks’ ability to win.

Is it then Peter De Villiers’ responsibility to rest players? Again the answer is “no”. De Villiers shouldn’t have to consider resting key players for the away leg of the Tri-Nations this year, as they should already be well rested and ready to play for their country. Peter is paid by SARU to bring in the correct results for the Springboks, which is hard to do if Springbok stars are tired and have to be rested.

Whose responsibility is it to rest the players then? The answer is “no one’s”. The question should not have to be asked by anyone.

It is the responsibility of the rugby administrators (read SANZAR and to some extent the IRB) to decrease the amount of rugby games being played thereby effectively erasing the need for player rotation. SANZAR’s bread and butter comes from the public’s interest in rugby, and the best way to gain our interest is to have high quality rugby games and a format which is fair to all sides involved.

With less rugby games, coaches will be able to play all their stars without worrying about the fatigue factor much. With fewer games in a tournament it creates a competitive atmosphere as a lot more rides on a single game than usual. For example, one loss in the Tri-Nations could put your chances of winning the trophy in serious doubt. This scenario makes games a lot more exciting to watch and generally creates an environment where both teams come to the party as a single loss could mean elimination.

The term “less is more”, which has become a rugby cliché now-a-days, has never been truer and SANZAR have misread what the fans want. The fans want top class rugby performances from their teams and this is best achieved when the players are fresh and raring to go like a wild stallion and not like an old, tired, broken horse.

The hype of tournaments like the Rugby World Cup and the British and Irish Lions Series is huge! Why? Well both of these tournaments only occur once every 4 and 12 years respectively. They are a rarity which is what makes them such gems. I bet the hype would decrease tenfold if they happened annually, after all what is special about a B&I Lions series that visits South Africa every year? The less something happens, the more prestigious it will become because a team’s chances to get it right are minimised.

Why would the laws that govern the World Cup and the B&I Lions series be any different from the laws that govern Super Rugby? Less is still more and while SANZAR may have lined their pockets in the short-term with the expanded tournament, in the long-term the enlarged competition will take its toll on players and the fans. The outcome will be less money for SANZAR and a dramatic decrease of interest in rugby.

Hopefully SANZAR can make a choice that is in rugby’s best interests, and I believe in the long-term their own as well. The choice needs to be made now, or very soon, before the effects of far too much rugby takes its toll on rugby’s 2 most important assets – its players and fans.


  • I agree, but SANZAR only sees money

  • Comment 1, posted at 11.07.11 11:54:10 by Mutley Reply
    MutleyTeam captain
  • From a fans point of view there can never be enough rugby. Saturday at 5 I felt lost because there was no rugby to watch anywhere.

  • Comment 2, posted at 11.07.11 11:55:54 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
    Assistant coach
  • @Pokkel (Comment 2) : Duuuuuuuuude I hear you

  • Comment 3, posted at 11.07.11 11:57:06 by Clayton(PJLD) Reply
    Clayton(PJLD)Team captain
  • @Mutley (Comment 1) : Unfortunately that is very true… :roll:

  • Comment 4, posted at 11.07.11 12:01:38 by The Sharks Sharkie Reply
    The Sharks SharkieVodacom Cup player
  • @Pokkel (Comment 2) : That is true as well, but I’d rather have 5 good rugby matches than 15 poor ones with 1 or 2 good ones in between. Time is precious and I don’t like wasting 80 minutes of my life with poor rugby.

  • Comment 5, posted at 11.07.11 12:05:10 by The Sharks Sharkie Reply
    The Sharks SharkieVodacom Cup player
  • SANZAR haven’t ACTUALLY misread what the fans want. They read what the Aussies want and as it turns out that is NOT what the SA Fan wants.

    I’m still waiting to see how the CC will be contested next year. With the SR comp running from Feb to late August. When will the CC be played?

  • Comment 6, posted at 11.07.11 12:26:10 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©Head Coach
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 6) : we’ll play two matches a year and only hand out the cup every third year…

  • Comment 7, posted at 11.07.11 12:28:39 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 6) : SA fans generally are more supportive of their teams and therefore our teams bring in more revenue via match attendance than the Aussie fans do. If SANZAR only see money as Mutley says SANZAR should do what the SA fans want as the money lies with us!

    Currie Cup will either become Vodacom Cup type of tournament or it will still be played in December… these poor rugby players recieve no breaks at all!!

  • Comment 8, posted at 11.07.11 12:30:29 by The Sharks Sharkie Reply
    The Sharks SharkieVodacom Cup player
  • @robdylan (Comment 7) : :lol:

    Delete that comment SARU might see it as a viable option.

  • Comment 9, posted at 11.07.11 12:30:50 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©Head Coach
  • @The Sharks Sharkie (Comment 8) : It can’t be played in Nov, Dec. That’s when the SH teams tour the NH. :(

    And then we ACTUALLY have people calling for an expansion to the competition. Stuff the Cheeky Watsons and John O’Neills of the world. :evil:

  • Comment 10, posted at 11.07.11 12:34:58 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©Head Coach
  • only viable option is for the Currie Cup to somehow be awarded to the winner of the SA conference every year.

  • Comment 11, posted at 11.07.11 12:36:51 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 10) : The Currie Cup isn’t going to be played with the Boks at all, accept that fact! Unless Super 15 gets smaller we are simply going to see a Bokless Currie Cup (unfortunately).

  • Comment 12, posted at 11.07.11 12:38:46 by The Sharks Sharkie Reply
    The Sharks SharkieVodacom Cup player
  • @robdylan (Comment 11) : A good solution to a bad idea (that bad idea being the expansion of Super Rugby). The best solution is to make Super 15 smaller. Aussies won’t like that though but screw the Aussies, there domestic competition problems must be sorted out by them not SANZAR!!! :roll:

  • Comment 13, posted at 11.07.11 12:42:11 by The Sharks Sharkie Reply
    The Sharks SharkieVodacom Cup player
  • It is such a pity that an extended super rugby comp has affected the Tri-Nations. Nothing besides the world cup eclipses a bruising SA-NZ/AU game where the worlds best are giving their all to come out victors. Now we have a situation where we are resting our “injured” top players to ensure that we’re at our peak come the world cup kick off. SANZAR agreements and “spirit of the game” honesty aside, I believe we’re doing the right thing, and it’s gut wrenching!

    However, John O’Neill pushed for this extended competition and this is the result. You made your bed John, now lie in it.

  • Comment 14, posted at 11.07.11 12:47:15 by Gaff Reply

    GaffUnder 21 player
  • @robdylan (Comment 11) : That will work only if we get the 6th team for the CC into the SR comp. :(

    I read in this month’s SASI (thanks for bringing me one goes to Kette) where Cheeky is interviewed and believes expanding SR is viable.

    I suppose if your team is to shit to cut it at premier div CC then it’s easier to just bypass it and play SR straight away.

  • Comment 15, posted at 11.07.11 12:50:42 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©Head Coach
  • @Gaff (Comment 14) : The most shocking thing of this whole scenario is that Super Rugby is taking away from Test rugby. Let us be honest – next year when Super Rugby breaks up for the incoming tour how many of the first choice Bok players will actually play? I can’t imagine too many as they will be exhausted after playing match after match in Super Rugby.

    Somehow Super Rugby has become the central focus and all the other tournaments must sacrifice for its sake. Test rugby should always come first and shouldn’t be threatened by Super Rugby at all!!

  • Comment 16, posted at 11.07.11 12:52:51 by The Sharks Sharkie Reply
    The Sharks SharkieVodacom Cup player
  • @Gaff (Comment 14) : The 3Ns is reduced every RWC year and we had the same issues in 2007 with JW resting players for the RWC, so THAT part of it can’t really be blamed on the expansion though.

  • Comment 17, posted at 11.07.11 12:54:18 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©Head Coach
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 17) : Maybe but I certainly think expansion has helped the decision this year more than it did in 07.

  • Comment 18, posted at 11.07.11 13:03:54 by The Sharks Sharkie Reply
    The Sharks SharkieVodacom Cup player
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 17) : True, but since then (as a result I suppose) SANZAR agreed not to water down the Tri-Nations. That year, the kiwis also pulled their players from the early games in the Super 14 so it was more transparent. The end result was the same I suppose, top Springboks out the 3N. Extending the tournament and asking for a full strength 3N in a world cup year was never going to happen, so why ask for it?

  • Comment 19, posted at 11.07.11 13:17:59 by Gaff Reply

    GaffUnder 21 player
  • My biggest gripe is the lack of leadership from South Africa in the Super 15 agreement. As it has already been pointed out, we are probably the biggest contributor from a fan and therefore sponsorship and TV revenue point. Why did we let ourselves get bullied into this.

    Now it’s up to the national coach to make some hard choices that never should have been up to him.

  • Comment 20, posted at 11.07.11 13:21:30 by Gaff Reply

    GaffUnder 21 player
  • PS – I’m looking forward to Pdivy’s televised press conferences. That man cracks me up

  • Comment 21, posted at 11.07.11 13:23:04 by Gaff Reply

    GaffUnder 21 player
  • @Gaff (Comment 19) : The Aussies and especially the All Blacks hate to beat us when we don’t really care because “it was a second-stringer Bok side”. Even more so the Kiwis and especially the Aussies were kaking themselves that our second-stringers were going to whip ass (which they nearly did).

  • Comment 22, posted at 11.07.11 13:23:59 by The Sharks Sharkie Reply
    The Sharks SharkieVodacom Cup player
  • @Gaff (Comment 20) : Our national coach is already enough of a clown and now he has to deal with fatigued players! Good grief I really do feel sorry for him!

    Its about time that SARU become the bullies. As soon as SANZAR sees a big potential loss in revenue they will bend. Use our money advantage SARU, SANZAR will listen!

  • Comment 23, posted at 11.07.11 13:37:29 by The Sharks Sharkie Reply
    The Sharks SharkieVodacom Cup player
  • How long is the current deal, 5 years?

  • Comment 24, posted at 11.07.11 13:46:08 by Gaff Reply

    GaffUnder 21 player
  • @Gaff (Comment 24) : Thats 5 years too long! :sad:

  • Comment 25, posted at 11.07.11 13:52:00 by The Sharks Sharkie Reply
    The Sharks SharkieVodacom Cup player
  • @Gaff (Comment 21) : Someone should tell SARU that they are reponsible for appointing top rugby coaches not top comedians!

  • Comment 26, posted at 11.07.11 13:53:09 by The Sharks Sharkie Reply
    The Sharks SharkieVodacom Cup player
  • Here’s how things are done in Utopia:

    The year is divided into two six-month blocks (Jan – Jun/Jul – Dec), and competitions are scheduled as follows:

    U-19′s – block 1, U-21′s – block 2, Vodacom Cup – block 1, Currie Cup – block 2, Super Rugby – block 1, Tri-Nations and tests – block 2.

    That way there’s a nice sort of ladder effect where the varying levels of competition follow on from one another, so that players doing well on one level can easily be introduced into the next, and coaches can use the preceding contest as a trial to evaluate players’ readiness for the next level.

    In order to guard against player burn-out there are specific rules in place regarding mandatory rest periods between contests based on the number of minutes played by players in the preceding contest.

    To protect against the dilution of the Currie Cup, players selected for the Tri-nations/tests are not allowed re-entry into Currie Cup squads.

    Interesting place that Utopia!

  • Comment 27, posted at 11.07.11 13:58:13 by Culling Song Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
    Culling SongTeam captain
  • @Culling Song (Comment 27) : Utopia is the only place where rugby’s interest prevail over money!! :sad:

  • Comment 28, posted at 11.07.11 14:00:44 by The Sharks Sharkie Reply
    The Sharks SharkieVodacom Cup player
  • @Gaff (Comment 20) : We can’t throw to much weight around because of our geographic location. We are literally in the middle of nowhere. The Aussies and Kiwis are close together and would probably welcome us leaving SANZAR, leaving them to play each other and not having to travel to “Africa”.

    If we split from them we won’t be eccepted in the NH either because a regional side would never be allowed to play in a club competition.

    We need Aus and NZ more than they need us.

  • Comment 29, posted at 11.07.11 14:10:31 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©Head Coach
  • A couple of questions to help with my fantasy team selection.

    If not playing for the boks, when is Flo off to Bath?
    Also with CJ, is he playing for WP or back to OFS for currie cup?

    Thanks in advance!! :razz:

  • Comment 30, posted at 11.07.11 14:14:11 by Gaff Reply

    GaffUnder 21 player
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 29) : I beg to differ. While you have raised some interesting points I do believe that money is still the best bargain weapon. A Super Rugby competition between NZ and Australia is bound to experience huge revenue losses! SA still own a very big part of the money pie and SANZAR will not want to let that slip away to easily!

  • Comment 31, posted at 11.07.11 14:14:14 by The Sharks Sharkie Reply
    The Sharks SharkieVodacom Cup player
  • @Gaff (Comment 30) : I don’t believe either of those players will feature in the Currie Cup.

    In fact, I don’t believe CJ is contracted to either WP or Free State for Currie Cup

  • Comment 32, posted at 11.07.11 14:30:58 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
  • @robdylan (Comment 32) : Thanks, just the confirmation I was looking for

  • Comment 33, posted at 11.07.11 14:33:17 by Gaff Reply

    GaffUnder 21 player
  • SA has the Currie Cup NZ has yhe ITM cup its only the Ausies that don’t have a local competision

  • Comment 34, posted at 12.07.11 05:18:23 by Mutley Reply
    MutleyTeam captain
  • @Mutley (Comment 34) : Which is precisely WHY they pushed for the Super 15 format. Screw the Aussies!! :twisted:

  • Comment 35, posted at 13.07.11 21:21:33 by The Sharks Sharkie Reply
    The Sharks SharkieVodacom Cup player

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