How long is a piece of string?

Written by Morné Nortier (Morné)

Posted in :Original Content on 28 Jul 2008 at 10:57

When is it too many, and when is it too few? Or should we rather ask what serves rugby best?

I listened with interest to Boland coach, Deon Davids, following their defeat to Western Province over the weekend.

Now we all know how Boland suffered because of the Fidentia scandal where they now sit with no sponsor, trying to compete in South Africa’s premier domestic competition, the Currie Cup.

It also follows a conversation I had last week about the Currie Cup structures in South Africa, where I was told that the current structure is the best, because 6 was too few and 14 too much, and with these new structures we give the smaller teams a fighting chance to work their way up.

I disagreed.

It was mentioned that if we give teams like the Valke, who beat Western Province a couple of weeks ago, some time, or a year or two, they will become very competitive. Now I’d hate to sound pessimistic but that to me will never happen. Rugby, under the current structures, will always revolve around the traditional big 5 unions.

Every single talented player these small unions unearth, is almost immediately poached by a big union or an overseas based club. A union like Boland for instance has already lost a couple of players and we are only about half-way through the competition!

It is simply impossible for these unions to hold onto talented players and start a building process. They do not have the money to compete with the big boys.

I also find these competitive matches in the beginning of the competition a bit of a false dawn on the issue of smaller unions now becoming competitive, because what is the bet the semi-finals will be contested between 4 of the top 5 big unions, and the relegation matches will be played by either Griquas, Valke or Boland?

All we are doing in South Africa is simply rotating or going through the same cycle year in and year out, possibly only substituting one minnow team for another if they get relegated – but the end result always the same.

Davids said in his post-match comments that all he can expect from his players, or look forward to as coach, are three training sessions a week of maximum 90 minutes per session.

I have seen clubs being able to do more than that, and this is for a team in our premier domestic competition? It is shocking.

There are many reasons these guys are struggling, and it would be foolish to ignore the fact that a lot of that is from their own mismanagement or corruption – but I just wonder how long South African rugby can afford to ignore this situation, especially seeing the amount of players our top unions are losing to European clubs?

I have maintained for a long time that I find it inexcusable that a country with well over 100 000 registered rugby players fail to develop at least 3 players of international quality in a position like flyhalf! Obviously somewhere we are missing talented rugby players falling through the web thanks to a bottle-neck effect we have created in our rugby where 5 unions alone control rugby financially, where we in fact have tens of thousands of players from 14 unions.

Just have a look at how New Zealand is suffering because of a player drain in their country!

I also find it shocking that a union like Boland, with over 200 clubs fail to be competitive, or how we can allow them to be uncompetitive.

Surely the warning lights must be flashing somewhere?

Deon Davids has to deal with some real problems down at his union, and it is in fact a miracle in my view that they are able to be even slightly competitive against other unions.

This is of course unlike the challenges Allister Coetzee sits with.

During the same post-match conference Allister again called for the media to have some perspective of the challenges he faces. He highlighted the fact that a union like the Cheetahs lost one or two guys from the team that competed in the Super 14, where Western Province lost 11.

Now I do have some sympathy for the former Bok assistant coach and the challenges he face because a lot is expected from a union that performed well in the Super 14 – but his challenges is not nearly as demanding or complicated as challenges faced by a Boland, or Valke or any minnow union.

Hell in a lot of ways his challenges does not even come close to that faced by Naka at the Cheetahs!

Just compare the teams or player base Allister has to that of Naka (WP has close to 90 clubs). Also take into regard that WP Rugby age-group teams won their respective titles last year and then most importantly, compare the budget they sit with.

Failure at this level, Allister’s level, is more a case of a union not being able to manage their structures (youth and clubs) correctly to ensure a constant influx of talent. It is night and day comparing that to the challenges a Deon Davids face, and possibly even a Naka.

For one I do not buy the reason Allister gives for Western Provinces average to poor performances so far. As a union, and what they have at their disposal, unions like Western Province, the Sharks and Bulls should be able to absorb the loss of 20 players and still be very competitive.

What was clear to me sitting and listening to both coaches is that something is seriously wrong in SA Rugby. To have two coaches, both under pressure talk about the challenges they face in the same competition, and comparing their challenges and reasoning, the future is anything but rosy in SA Rugby.

What is the solution?  Hell, how long is a piece of string?


  • it’s actually interesting to see what happened to the Valke this weekend. They finally came up against a Super 14 team at virtually full strength and they got stuffed. Not like the weeks before when they looked very good against depleted big 5 teams.

    I have long maintained that we can only carry 6 pro unions in SA… the gap seemed to have closed in this year’s CC, but I’m afraid that it’s opening right back up again.

  • Comment 1, posted at 28.07.08 11:08:08 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 1) : Amen.

  • Comment 2, posted at 28.07.08 11:13:50 by ra-cheltjie de' be-er Reply

  • Double the length from one side to the middle. :mrgreen:

  • Comment 3, posted at 28.07.08 11:24:30 by ra-cheltjie de' be-er Reply

  • 😯 Must be a good read I read the WHOLE thing 😯

    I agree with what PA says but with a little qualification.

    Alister coetzee has no leg to stand on when it comes to amount of players lost vs. his teams performance at the moment.

    AT the moment because he has lost to smaller unions. if he had been beaten by on of the remaining big 5 then he may have an argument, but he doesn’t coz he lost to minnows.

  • Comment 4, posted at 28.07.08 11:27:47 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • we do need to get away from the “blame culture” in SA Rugby. Always somebody or something else’s fault when we fail.

  • Comment 5, posted at 28.07.08 11:33:22 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • Nice article Morne.

    The top 5 should remain and MAYBE we can include the Lions to make it a top 6.

    :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

  • Comment 6, posted at 28.07.08 11:34:41 by wpw Reply
  • @wpw (Comment 6) : anyone seen any of the Lions guys today? 😉

  • Comment 7, posted at 28.07.08 11:40:21 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • At the end of the day…the “toughness”(or lack thereof) of the CC impacts on our Super 14 teams and that in turn has a big influence on how the Boks perform.

    Instead of passing the blame we should find a genuine way to bridge the gap so that the smaller unions can be able to hold on to some decent players, even for a year or two and keep the CC alive. That, off course, spells M.O.N.E.Y.

  • Comment 8, posted at 28.07.08 11:47:54 by blackshark Reply

    blackshark - I'm back!
  • @wpw (Comment 6) :


    it’s only Monday morning dude, they are gonna eat you alive by Friday.

    I don’t think the Lions are the team to give you your first away win of the season.

  • Comment 9, posted at 28.07.08 11:52:02 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • Not yet Rob.

    I do however refuse to be cocky about our victory against Boland. 🙄

    And I’ve got a feeling we are not going to beat them on their home ground this coming weekend. 😥 😥

  • Comment 10, posted at 28.07.08 11:52:58 by wpw Reply
  • @wpw (Comment 10) :

    Then what do you call this? @wpw (Comment 6) : 😆

    Man I don’t want to see you when you are cocky then 😉

  • Comment 11, posted at 28.07.08 12:01:14 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • lol KSA

    It was bait to get Hmmm, CSB and Walter out of the closet. :mrgreen:

  • Comment 12, posted at 28.07.08 12:04:48 by wpw Reply
  • @blackshark (Comment 8) : changes to the Kolpak ruling are going to make things interesting. All of a sudden, we won’t find even our mediocre third division guys being offered huge money to go to Europe. It’s going to result in a more talented player pool that costs less per man.

    Tough shit for the players.

  • Comment 13, posted at 28.07.08 12:06:08 by robdylan Reply
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  • @wpw (Comment 12) : I’ve met CSB and he’s not gay.

    I doubt Walter is either. He has kids.

    Hmmmm is a bit dodgy all round 😉

  • Comment 14, posted at 28.07.08 12:07:41 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 7) :
    I reckon they are keping their ammo dry until this time next week. Also busy drawing up tables and developing programmes to deternine to the nearest cm the gains made/lost in the van der Merwe vs Mujati battle.

  • Comment 15, posted at 28.07.08 12:13:03 by Salmonoid Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Salmonoid the Subtle
  • lmao #15 Salmonoid.


  • Comment 16, posted at 28.07.08 12:22:33 by wpw Reply
  • @robdylan (Comment 13) : That should do wonders for our player retention.

  • Comment 17, posted at 28.07.08 12:31:45 by blackshark Reply

    blackshark - I'm back!
  • @Salmonoid (Comment 15) : you mean Heinke vs Jannie?

  • Comment 18, posted at 28.07.08 12:34:14 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 15) :

    Unfortunately they are both looseheads otherwise it would have been a great tussle that Vd Merwe would have won IMO.

  • Comment 19, posted at 28.07.08 12:35:11 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 19) : Dawie? Is that you?

  • Comment 20, posted at 28.07.08 12:42:30 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 18) :
    No rob that was last week,merely a sideshow. Next week its the big one – Hmmmm vs wpw.

  • Comment 21, posted at 28.07.08 12:48:33 by Salmonoid Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Salmonoid the Subtle
  • @robdylan (Comment 20) :

    Don’t insult me like that.

    They are Both LHs though right?

  • Comment 22, posted at 28.07.08 13:01:42 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @Salmonoid (Comment 21) :

    Hmmm vs WP 😆 😆

    He and WPW have bee practising for a while now 😉

  • Comment 23, posted at 28.07.08 13:03:00 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 22) : Mujati ain’t.

  • Comment 24, posted at 28.07.08 13:04:16 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 21) : If the Gospel according to Hmmm is anything to go by Heinke will drill Mujati…and he will go backwards faster than Wacko’s Billy Jean moonwalk…40 times…

    Walter on the other hand…might have different stats.

  • Comment 25, posted at 28.07.08 13:04:57 by blackshark Reply

    blackshark - I'm back!
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 22) :

    Well I can’t remember who playes where but from the last match that each guy started for their provinces they both started at LH. 😳 Maybe I should checked the CC and not the S14 😆

  • Comment 26, posted at 28.07.08 13:05:20 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 26) :
    Dont worry, I dont always remember either but I do remember Hmmmm pulling out the stats for Mujati vs van der Merwe from the Super 14 game.

  • Comment 27, posted at 28.07.08 13:14:06 by Salmonoid Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Salmonoid the Subtle
  • @Salmonoid (Comment 27) : But where did he pull those stats out of? 😐

  • Comment 28, posted at 28.07.08 13:41:36 by PJLD Reply
  • Hey how do South Africans spell ARSE or is it ASS? 😉

  • Comment 29, posted at 28.07.08 14:13:13 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • English speaking Arse ..Afrikaanse Ass…

  • Comment 30, posted at 28.07.08 14:26:52 by CoffeeShopBok;-) Reply

  • Big 5 unions… WP, Sharks, Cheetahs, Bulls… Griquas?

  • Comment 31, posted at 28.07.08 14:29:06 by VinChainSaw Reply
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 29) : :mrgreen:

  • Comment 32, posted at 28.07.08 14:33:29 by PJLD Reply
  • @VinChainSaw (Comment 31) :

    Ha-ha thats funny…Not!

  • Comment 33, posted at 28.07.08 14:34:57 by CoffeeShopBok;-) Reply

  • @PJLD (Comment 32) :

    Is it that obvious? 😆

  • Comment 34, posted at 28.07.08 14:35:53 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • You guys are ‘op julle stukke vandag né’ 😈

  • Comment 35, posted at 28.07.08 14:56:58 by wpw Reply
  • Time for SA Rugby to start paying player salaries at the smaller Unions – you want to keep a talented SAu21 or 7’s player at a Union where he will start every game instead of languishing on the bench? Then pay his salary at a small union.

  • Comment 36, posted at 28.07.08 19:34:07 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • Hey fish. Nessa find you?

  • Comment 37, posted at 28.07.08 20:02:12 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @robdylan (Comment 37) :
    Hi Rob.

    She did indeed.

  • Comment 38, posted at 28.07.08 20:08:22 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @Big Fish (Comment 38) : Cool. Not up to anything dodgy, are you? 🙂

  • Comment 39, posted at 28.07.08 20:45:56 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @robdylan (Comment 39) :
    Always Rob – its my profession! 😛

  • Comment 40, posted at 28.07.08 21:17:45 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish

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