The experiment has failed – bring back the Cats

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Cheetahs, Lions, Original Content, Super 14 on 24 Mar 2008 at 09:32

South Africa has neither the depth of players nor coaches at the required standard to field five fully-independent Super Rugby franchises. The woeful performances of the Lions and Cheetahs ever since the acrimonious split-up of the Cats just proves they were never good enough to each have their own team in this competition and should one more be combined in the interests of mounting a stronger SA challenge.

Since the dissolution of the Cats franchise at the end of the 2005 Super 12, the Lions and Cheetahs have competed as separate entities in the expanded Super 14. We were told that the only problem at the Cats, the reason that they had become the perennial whipping boys of the Southern Hemisphere showcase, was the so-called “cultural differences” that made players from Joburg and Bloemfontein mutually incompatible. How could one expect a team to perform when all of their players didn’t live in the same place and play for the same Currie Cup team, after all? Must be the same reason the Boks never win anything!

So, we duly fell over ourselves in the haste to establish two new teams, each with a historically strong (or at least less weak) identity, a single home ground and a single character. In the 2006 season, the Cheetahs finished in 10th place out of 14, managing to win 5 out of 13 games. The Lions were 13th, managing to win only twice. The following year was no better, with the Cheetahs slipping to 11th (4 wins out of 13) and the Lions crawling up a place to 12th (5 wins out of 13). So far in 2008, at more or less the halfway stage, the Cheetahs are in 13th and the Lions in 12th. Out of 12 games between them, they have managed a single win; that win was the Lions victory over the Cheetahs, in fact, which just goes to prove the theory. Only a fool would bet against both teams again occupying their regular positions in the bottom third of the table at the conclusion of this year’s competition.

Two questions need to be asked here: the first is, are the individual results achieved by the Lions and the Cheetahs over the last 3 years in any way an improvement over the results they delivered as a combined entity over a decade of Super Rugby? The answer here must be an emphatic no. The Cats at least qualified for the semi-finals of the Super 12 on two occasions; anyone predicting the same fate for either the Cheetahs or the Lions over the next few years clearly needs to increase the dosage. The second question again asks whether any other regional team that South Africa could field (such as the Spears) could possibly perform worse? Again, worse is a relative term, but I don’t really feel that they would.

Our problem here is the lack of quality coaching. The Bulls are discovering to their detriment that you actually need to have a coach that knows what he’s doing to be competitive at this level. Naka Drotske and Eugene Eloff are both reasonable coaches, but neither has what it takes to be successful in Super Rugby on his own at this stage. The only time in living memory when the Cats actually had a decent coach at the helm (Laurie Mains) they all of a sudden looked a different team and were serious contenders. Combine the teams, get in a coach who had proven success at this level (i.e. a foreigner) and let’s see what happens. It can’t be any worse.

Looking at the tour squads announced by each team, as well as some of the names that are getting regular game time here, we can come to no other conclusion than this; the Lions and the Cheetahs as individual entities lack the player depth to mount a serious challenge. Again, the only future for both of these franchises is to combine them once more and leave the fifth spot open for some form of development team. Either that or let sanity prevail and revert to a 12 (or maybe even 10) team competition, where each side actually is strong enough to compete with every other. We are not the only ones having problems, after all, with the Highlanders clearly not up to the required standard and the Reds not too far behind.

Time to take some action, guys, if you can get the administrators away from the lunch table in a sober enough state to make the tough decisions. I’ll be over here on the edge of my seat.


  • i have been thinking about the different proposals i have heard lately for the future of the super 14. most mention that less teams will make for better rugby.

    however, i think we should be heading in the direction where we start competing with the european competitions in terms of cash. many of the sh guys play in europe, why should it not be the other way round too? yes, money, but if they can generate so much cash then why can’t we?

    if we can start attracting more nh players to play super rugby, the people up there may start watching it. oh and maybe there can be a clause in the broadcasting rights that states that whoever buys the rights must show a minimum number of games, cos sky is bloody useless.

    the nh does not have the player base to keep all their teams on a high level without drafting in foreign players, it seems that the same is true for us and we should start addressing this. rugby is an international game, the southern hemisphere is rich in resources, which we seem to be exporting.

    if we pull into our shells and make the competition smaller to increase the quality, we will forever be feeders to the big guns with the money up north. we need to start competing with them.

  • Comment 1, posted at 24.03.08 10:20:29 by knersboy Reply
  • I think the Cheetahs don’t have the resources to be in Super Rugby and going back Why not have the Bulls and Lions merge to form a powerful central franchise. They are geographically close together and could play all home games at Loftus. Ellis Park is a useless white elephant. Loftus is accessible to the Joburg fans – they can catch the Gautrain. πŸ˜‰

    Players can still live at home and commute. It all makes perfect sense until you start adding the egoes of the people involved.

  • Comment 2, posted at 24.03.08 10:37:59 by yossarian Reply
  • I think the Cheetahs don’t have the resources to be in Super Rugby, and going back to an already failed experiment is like giving Ludicrous another Super franchise to coach. DOF

  • Comment 3, posted at 24.03.08 10:39:51 by yossarian Reply
  • RobD

    Your article is a very nice summary of a debate that is ongoing for the last couple of years. But, and this is no critisism – just another point of view being added, I think you will be the first one to agree with me that there are just too many contradictions. And we are ALL making this mistake.

    As far as I am concerned, one can not apply troubleshooting and come up with two different difinitive symptoms. It is either the fact that we do not have the player base or the fact that our coaching/administrative structures are not in place.

    I would like to take the one out of the equation and assume that we do have the talented player base. And I base this assumption on various factors. Amongst them is the fact that we have the 2nd most registered rugby players in the world. As a matter of fact, if one looks at a database of available SA players (which you, unfortunately, will have to compile yourselves as SA Rugby and it’s esteemed Unions are still trying to get Computer Literacy 101 under the belt) I will go as far as to say that we can easily accommodate six world class franchises.

    That leaves us with the 2nd symptom being the Administration – inclusive of coaching, structures, team management, player management, skills development, etc. The problem is that our teams’ performances are directly related to the Unions’ administrative structures and policies.

    If you go back the last 15 years and compile graphs of the statistical performances of our respective teams, you will clearly see the trends. Especially if you analyse the performances in terms of the Presidential/Executive elections taking place at the Unions every 2 to 3 years.(Which in itself is proof of no long term planning – but, then, SA Rugby and it’s Unions are also still suffering with Management 101, Marketing 101 and Financial- and Strategic Management 101)

    In 2000 to 2002 the Bulls went through exactly the same situation as now. Then it was directly related to new management and coaches (Remember Phil Pretorius and Meyer – his first stint at the Bulls – together with huge political infighting at the Bulls?) Now, with the involvement of Barend van Graan and SAIL and his buddy Ludeke, the Bulls are being dealt a massive dose of deja vu.

    Remember the Kevin Putt era at the Sharks?

    The Mallet/Kobus van der Merwe era at the Stormers?

    The Ludeke/Turner era at the Lions/Cats?

    If you apply the same analysis to the individual 14 Unions, you are most likely in for the shock of your life. Senior Vice Presidents at some of these Unions are more concerned about when they get their sponsored laptops and Air tickets than about the well-being of their Unions/Teams.

    For me, the debate should be concerning the influence of management/coaching, or the lack thereof, rather than whether we have enough talented players.

    In the end, team spirit is an illusion created by winning. Winning is the result of various processes working in synergy.

    Unfortunately, with the inherent political- and mismanagement nature of SA Rugby as a whole, synergy has a tendency to walk away together with messrs. Johnny Walker and Jack Daniels.

  • Comment 4, posted at 24.03.08 13:38:49 by Kandas Reply
  • You are looking from a few paces further back than I did, Kandas, but I can’t fault anything you say above. I think that good administration and coaching are far more important than a squad of superstars.

    Can’t point any fingers at the Sharks in terms of either point, though. They have cleaned their house

  • Comment 5, posted at 24.03.08 13:50:42 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • Exactly my point Rob. The Sharks’ current performances are directly related to the Management- and coaching structures they’ve put in place over the last 2 to 3 years. With players who were so-called no-names 3 years ago.

  • Comment 6, posted at 24.03.08 13:56:16 by Kandas Reply

  • Ok. But the emphasis on player development and progression needs to be there. Doesn’t help having great youth structures like they do at the Bulls while the same useless guys stay in the senior team

  • Comment 7, posted at 24.03.08 14:37:47 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • Nice post Kandas… only difference in the equation this cycle round is we are now losing hundreds of players experienced, and youngsters to OS… like we have never seen before… then again that is also a consequence of admin…

  • Comment 8, posted at 24.03.08 14:40:45 by bryce_in_oz Reply

  • Rob ineteresting but I differe somewhat in opinion.

    Firstly if something was a disaster before, it will be a disaster again – I see no point in going back and changing the Lions and Cheetahs into the Cats again.

    That we need change however is a given.

    What pisses me off mostly is that the Super tournament was created and in South Africa, was supposed to be a ‘regionally’ based franchise system. What did we end up doing? We let unions run with it.

    South Africa has 5 major areas, the North, Central, East Coast, SEC and Western Cape. How we can have 2 major unions, less than 100km from one another play as two different entities in a professional FRANCHISE comp like the Super 14 is daft.

    I tell you one thing, combine the Northern unions, this include Bulls and Lions (the two big ones), Valke, Pumas and Leopards – and you will have a kick ass team.

    Investigations were done some time ago already to open up or build a sports village, including rugby/soccer stadium, atheletics track, loads of indoor sports including clinic, living quarters and millions of other things – basically a self sustaining sports town/village which will also act as an academy.

    Then have the central franchise (Cheetahs, Griffons, Griquas & Northern Cape) – there is enough talent there. If the Cheetahs and Griquas managed to be competitive in the Currie Cup for the last 4 or so years, believe me there is more than 30 quality players.

    East coast obviously the Sharks.

    SEC Border, EP and SWD

    WC, WP, Boland etc.

    Vitally important however, divorce the franchise 100% from any union or union affiliate. In fact, I would go as far as to say no individual that serves on a union board or in any capacity must be allowed to serve in the franchise.

    Franchises can then either lease stadiums from the major unions (additional income) or build their own over time.

    Even have these franchises list as semi-public or public companies, get people to invest in them, invest in players (even foreign based) and invest, or plough back into unions they represent.

    Franchises should run completely independent from unions. They register with SARU under certain conditions (like all unions do) and some clever clauses must then be put in place.

    Look at a type of centralising contract system like NZ rugby. Our own version though.

    For example put caps on salaries and caps on players (pro’s) in certain positions.

    For instance, no player is allowed to get more than R100K per month. Also, SARU, together with the national coach and director of coaching and/or development identify their top 150 players and fringe players. If for instance the Northern franchise sits with 4 of out 5 top locks, you only allow them to contract 2 or 3, with the other guys going into the national pool.

    Franchises can also then bid for these players, and the player, together with the national coach can consult with these franchises to ‘place’ him in another franchise for the duration of the competition.

    Franchises then sort out or finalise their 30-man squads with 15-fringe players they also identify (in the case of injury to first choice players).

    The 15 fringe players and the rest that did not make it goes back to their respective provinces and play Vodacom Cup or whatever.

    Our problem with our Super rugby teams is not depth (coaching or players), it is plain stupidity in our structures as they currently stand.

  • Comment 9, posted at 24.03.08 16:10:24 by MorneN Reply
  • Morne
    While your ideas have merits, and I agree with most, salary capping is just going to drive more players overseas. Imagine a Juan Smith or Schalk Burger being offered say 2 mil to come and play at the Sharks. That’s way over the 100k pm limit. It’s way more than say the central unions could offer, but because of the cap, Smith gets an offer of 2 million Euro a year in France/UK. He’d be dumb not to take it.

    I also think in terms of the exodus, we are going to see a lot of younger players – think Frans Steyn for eg, taking up lucrative 2 year contracts overseas and then returning to SA, as opposed to final paychecks by the Teichmanns, Honiballs, etc.

    I also think that we may well start to see more northern hemisphere stars turning out in the S14 which would be fantastic.

  • Comment 10, posted at 24.03.08 16:43:50 by hellbent Reply

  • The 100K was simply an example.

    The idea with a franchise system is that it is open to investment from the outside, unlike unions today in SA which is again why it should be divorced from unions – people/investors do not trust unions simply because of amateur (absolute shyte) administration that takes place there. Change it so it becomes a pro business and things will change.

    In Perth local businesses invested millions in Gitt’s, and I dont see why the same would not happen here?

    If it is run professionally I would also support calls for Boks only to be selected (mainly) based in SA or through this medium (Super rugby through professional, regional franchises) but until that happens our rugby is in shit because of administration, not player depth.

    It is quite simple, you perform on the local scene (VC, CC etc) you will get a union contract – if you perform there you will get a lucrative franchise contract and also possibly, a Bok contract.

    You have to obviously make capping still appealing and more or less in tune with the general market related prices out there – but market related with mainly the SH teams or unions or top paid players – not so much NH.

    Vic for instance in playing flank in a second division French team – does he enjoy that? Not a chance mate.

    Give players a chance of a comfortable life in SA and they will chose it over bloated or inflated offers from overseas – but before that happens, sort out our administration.

    Players like Vic etc have left because they were not sure on their futures in SA Rugby and that directly relates to administration.

    Others of course will always still go to maybe try something different or to close off their careers overseas like Corne did but that you will never change.

    As for youngsters leaving, they will leave for the same motivation youngsters in any profession leaves SA and it is not limited to rugby or problems in our rugby, it is a personal choice.

    You wont change that either, but lets not give them rugby reasons (foul administration and structures) to pack up and go.

  • Comment 11, posted at 24.03.08 17:19:55 by MorneN Reply
  • anybody out there ????????????????????????? πŸ™„

  • Comment 12, posted at 24.03.08 19:31:41 by sharks_lover Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • eish all asleep πŸ‘Ώ πŸ˜†

  • Comment 13, posted at 24.03.08 19:49:01 by sharks_lover Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • Eish

    All of the sudden the Sharks are quite flash

    even if they havent won anything of note since ’96

    way back in the previous century.


    please explain to me why the Central region must offer up its seat at the table – just to make it easier for the – I must admit very well run Sharks profit Center- to contract better players than their current pile of cash can do?

    So that red nosed rudi can sign Juan cheaper?

    Because what you are saying is that us non Shark supporters- who still want to support our teams ( Duh that is the reason why we pay the DSTV tax and havent switched of on SA Sport)- with its pathetic administration and all- and in the Cheetahs case- a coaching staff that for sure cannot convey the discipline of Defence- are actually the reason why the SHARKS cannot win something- and let us not make any bones about it- doing well in the competition is great – BUT-

    in the end- no can ( except the bulls fans) remember who came second in S14 2007.

    It is not the Cheetahs responsibility to help the Sharks win anything.

    The central unions should not be deprived of any opportunity to play in S14 Rugby- because even after so many seasons of S14 rugby- the so called “trojans” of SA Rugby- the black & white dynamite gang – have had but a couple of farts against the wind( some wasnt dry either)and no glory.

    But still huge amounts of dosh had been paid out to its gang of mercenaries.

    Sorry Boet- become like the Crusaders ( Who have to compete against the NZ Money from the North Island)- who develop their own- keep onto their own and WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN with their own – then you will have my “grudging” respect.

    But then- you dont really care about respect – just results!

    cannot understand then why you are still a Sharks supporter then!



    Dear Mr Strauli

    Wont you please offer a certain master Oelschig a paid holiday in Debben?

    Much Obliged


  • Comment 14, posted at 24.03.08 20:51:14 by Oranje Orakel Reply

  • 😯 eish OO dis a lang liefdes briefie :mrgreen:

  • Comment 15, posted at 24.03.08 22:02:37 by sharks_lover Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • i must say i am in both sides regarding this issue

    i dont see why the cheetahs must sit with the lions crap
    a union that is about bankrupt

    but at the same time what to do??
    the fact is the other unions should go learn from the sharks as they obviously doing something right

  • Comment 16, posted at 24.03.08 22:06:25 by sharks_lover Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • hehehe SL

    Point is Cheetahs needs to fix the valid concerns

    pathetic Admin

    Some aspects of the team not up to S 14 standard.

    But hey – I only have seen 1 SA success in Super history- happened in Deben- Cup did not tOOk residence there


    Maybe RoBBie has jumped the gun a bit here-

    Anyway- your team is competing well- hope they can do themselves and their supporters- ( No I am not one of them πŸ™‚ ) proud over the coming months.

  • Comment 17, posted at 24.03.08 22:13:04 by Oranje Orakel Reply

  • πŸ˜† but we all know mr OO is should have if sheep shagger ref did his job :mrgreen: and he admmitted he made mistakes that cost the sharks

    but i see ur point mate and me personally as the cheetahs is my 2nd side i dont want them involved with the lions

  • Comment 18, posted at 24.03.08 22:34:04 by sharks_lover Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • oh my sudenly the emoticons work lol

  • Comment 19, posted at 24.03.08 22:39:38 by sharks_lover Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • Goodmorning everybody :mrgreen:

    This option might be working better for SA Rugby, there will always be losers in any competition but it’s certainly the way you lose that counts, surely the Lions and Cheetahs are looking terrible… πŸ™„

  • Comment 20, posted at 25.03.08 07:37:05 by Charlie Reply

  • Charlie… actually I’d say the Bulls are losing in an uglier manner than the Lions and Cheetahs… but losses are losses all the same…

  • Comment 21, posted at 25.03.08 07:48:04 by bryce_in_oz Reply

  • Bryce,

    The Bulls are the reigning champions… πŸ™„ :mrgreen: πŸ™„

  • Comment 22, posted at 25.03.08 07:52:20 by Charlie Reply

  • OO, you should actually try sticking to the point of the discussion a bit more. The Currie Cup means fuck all here, boet, neither does the fact that the Sharks haven’t won anything recently. In fact, the Sharks are relevant to this article only due to the fact that they are not an embarrassment to SA based on Super 14 results. I don’t want the Cheetahs to ‘help the Sharks win’ anything… I would prefer if they won for themselves and possibly to keep their dwindling fan-base happy. Are you perhaps a little bit glad every time they do lose? Thinking “at least this wiLL make it a liTTle harder for thr $hark$!”

  • Comment 23, posted at 25.03.08 07:56:57 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • gm Rob and everyone else !!!

    rob mate how ru doing?? and are you in SA right now ????
    bro i sent you 2 emails as articles to post did you receive them ????

    its both about sharks or ex sharks players ?

  • Comment 24, posted at 25.03.08 08:11:54 by sharks_lover Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • Got em, thanks. I’m not really properly online at the moment, though. Saw Ksa already has one of them up

  • Comment 25, posted at 25.03.08 08:17:44 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator

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