KSA Shark ©

A cast of Thousands

Written by Andre Bosch (KSA Shark ©)

Posted in :Super 14 on 11 Mar 2008 at 06:28

There is consensus that the Super 14 is one of the toughest, if not the toughest, sporting contests in the world but it is also a numerical miracle involving countless thousands.

From the moment the most solitary figure in the vibrant mass, the referee, sounds the first whistle to start the first game on a Friday the tournament involves and connects with a staggering array of participants spread throughout three countries and four (sometimes) time zones.

Dan Retief writes on Superrugby that we tune into the matches, we like what we see, we hate what we see, we ridicule what we see, we cheer, we argue, we bet, we write and we talk about it. It becomes a material whole, a constant presence, THE Super 14, but look behind the scenes and you discover an ant’s nest of human participation and endeavour.

It was a realization that struck home while studying SuperSport’s broadcast schedule – a document which in itself is a marvel of organization.

Broken down the logistics of the Super 14 are quite staggering.

On any given weekend there are more than 400 players (top-class professional players) in the mix; some 300 of them actually playing. Each team probably has in the region of 12 auxiliary staff members (the coaches, the fitness experts, the medical staff) in tow so you have upward of 500 bodies with a direct involvement.

Just imagine what goes into moving all of them around! The air and hotel bookings and coaches to move them about. Just think what goes into feeding them all.

Then you have the match officials (three on the field but also the TMO, the assessor and those running the substitutions) all of whom would be high and dry if it were not for the stadium staff – a staggering number at each venue who see to the preparation of the pitch, the presentation of the dressing rooms, the cleaning of the structure, the ushering of people and cars, the provision of nourishment and (especially in South Africa) the presence of security personnel.

Then come the spectators filing in which, given an average crowd of 20 000, takes the live audience well over the 100 000 mark and then you get to the television audience; millions connected to the action by way of a series of technological marvels that never cease to amaze me.

It is staggering what goes into producing the pictures and voices with which the absent audiences relate to matches.

The commentators, Hugh Bladen, Matthew Pearce, Owen Nkumane, plus their expert comments men, Joel Stransky, Warren Brosnihan, Kobus Wiese, Gavin Cowley, and announced Xola Ntshinga provide the human association to the action while in studio the like of Naas Botha, Garth Wright and Tony Ndoro would have given it a face to relate to.

Take note, in one quick paragraph I mentioned the names of 11 prominent rugby personalities involved in a single broadcast and that is not nearly the sum of it.

There is a director with his staff in the studio and at the matches, serviced by the gadgetry of the remarkable OB (outside broadcast) units, there are a director, a video tape director, a floor manager, a PA, statisticians, graphics technicians, vision mixers and many more skilled technicians performing key tasks – all connected by kilometers of cabling to the cameras, and the human beings operating them, out on the field.

It is a highly stressed, highly charged atmosphere and I can tell you that rugby teams can learn a bit from the teamwork that goes into broadcasting a match were the smallest glitch is multiplied into an error far greater than a dropped pass could ever be.

Now think that all this is repeated at seven different venues over a period of 14 weeks and that in the case of SuperSport it is being replicated at soccer, cricket and other sporting venues – a truly remarkable feat of organization and precision.

So the next time there’s an excellent try by Joe Rokocoko and you see a caption that it came after the ball had been recycled 10 times, ignore it – it literally required thousands of phases!

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