KSA Shark ©

Rugby faces struggle just to survive

Written by Andre Bosch (KSA Shark ©)

Posted in :In the news on 23 Mar 2009 at 07:19
Tagged with : , , , , , , ,

The term ‘rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic’ means an exercise in futility; mucking about with minutiae while the main concern steams steadfastly towards destruction, as the Titanic famously did in 1912 when it hit an iceberg and sank.

It was difficult, when looking at the latest Sanzar rugby impasse, to avoid Titanic references. Rugby is heading towards its own iceberg and the Sanzar meeting seemed only to bring the noise of chairs scraping on the deck.

Paul Lewis writes in the NZ Herald that some will say there is no iceberg, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere, where money abounds and the fan base is strong. Sinking?

The game is soaring, they’ll say.

Soaring? All right then – it’s like rearranging the seating in the Hindenburg, as some wag told the White House correspondents’ association dinner a few years back.

The north and world rugby needs a strong south. But rugby has developed a frightening ability to ignore its own icebergs; to believe in its own unsinkability, just as the owners of the Titanic did.

In the New Zealand Herald last week, rugby writer Wynne Gray addressed the Sanzar attempts to reform the ailing Super 14 format by alluding to South Africa’s intransigence and their signal that they could head off to a new league involving Scotland, Ireland, Argentina and the US.

Let them go, said Gray, as “it might be time to sting Asia and maybe the US for rights to join the [Super 14] tournament”.

The Herald on Sunday revealed moves for a Super 12, with New Zealand, Australian, Pacific Island and Japanese teams. Hand me that deck chair, will you?

Try as I might, I cannot get interested in a tournament, already boring thousands upon thousands, which moots the absence of the world champions and replaces them with the might of Japan, the US and/or the Pacific Islands.

The proposition – which will doubtless be accompanied by the spin that it will help ‘grow’ world rugby – reminds me of the breathless reporter who once asked John Lennon whether Ringo Starr was the best drummer in the world.

Lennon replied: “He’s not even the best drummer in the Beatles.”

Rugby in this part of the world is just like Ringo. Under the yoke of professional rugby, it has faded and is losing contact with its fan base (Starr famously cut himself off from his fans last year by refusing to sign any more autographs).

Rugby in this part of the world has an issue to address before it talks about ‘growth’ or the reformation of Super rugby. Survival. Exaggerated?

Look at the facts. Rugby’s support in New Zealand is waning. Dwindling TV audiences and gates reveal the plughole and swirling water.

And this is New Zealand. Maybe not the ‘home’ of rugby but certainly its cathedral. There is no more pure and integrated rugby society in the world. And we’re bleeding.

Here is a brief list of problems turning people off the game and facing New Zealand and world rugby: Confusing rules, changed every year by people who do not seem to understand the game.

Those changes have produced an untidy, defence-oriented game which looks much like rugby league but without the structure.

Quantity dominates, not quality. In the professional era, chasing the dollar has seen more and more games and tests created – overkill.

The anticipation that used to fire interest and imaginations has gone, buried under a clogged calendar controlled by broadcasting fees and which promotes boredom.

With all that rugby to be played, elements such as rotation, reconditioning, campaign management and player welfare have surfaced – meaning fans do not see the best players consistently.

The June test window sees Northern Hemisphere countries send down meaningless B and C teams. Yet the NZRU does nothing – no boycott, no meaningful protest. It just takes the money.

Too bad for the punters.

Imbalance – the Northern Hemisphere has the money and the power but the Southern Hemisphere has the talent and plays the game better. In six World Cups, the north has won only one.

The IRB cannot control the game it is supposed to rule. Factional self-interest is too strong and the global structure and rules are inconsistent.

That list shows a game that is one sick puppy.

All right, rugby won’t die. But, as it gets weaker, there is the real threat that rugby in New Zealand (and Australia) could wither as we move on to new national sports like bridge swinging and methamphetamine.

Without a strong New Zealand and Australia, the north may continue to prosper domestically but the game will be in danger of folding into pockets of self-interest – talking of ‘world champions’ and ‘world series’ but really becoming isolated, like gridiron, Gaelic football and baseball.

New Zealand has only itself to rely on. We showed we could change world rugby opinion with the successful campaign to bag the 2011 World Cup.

We now need leadership and vision to secure the future of the game.

Fast. All we’re hearing is the scraping of those chairs on the deck.


  • What an excellent article and what he says is so true, for the first time ever, I actually turned the TV off in the Waratahs-Crusaders game, I was bored stiff, the six nations is still exciting rugby, but the drivel that is being served up by the Super 14 is awful, and a lot of it comes back to the ELV’s and our wanting to increase the no. of teams in the tournament. Aussie with all due respect are struggling with 4 teams, as are we with 5, NZ are in sh!t with the amount of top class players they have lost and this has led to a very boring tournament. Can you imagine what will happen if we go along with the like of Japan. Yawn yawn!! I still see rugby’s only salvation, as returning to the touring format, where a team makes a major tour , now this would not be every year but bi annually and would alternate with the world cup, this would also serve as a building process towards the world cup, so AUS would tour the Argentine and NZ would tour SA obviously these would alternate and fall in with the British Lions tour as well, then the following year, you would have the super 14 tournament and there would be so much more interest in it, if it only happened every alternative year? Your thoughts??

  • Comment 1, posted at 23.03.09 07:54:46 by Whindy Reply
  • Awesome article. Agree with most of what he says. They need us more than we need them. And who would you rather watch, NZ v Boks or NZ v Japan? Will be a sad day when the two greatest rugby nations in the world stop playing each other on a regular basis. One thing I disagree with (and apparently Whindy as well 😉 ) is that the Super 14 is boring. I suppose I can see his point from a Kiwi perspective but the S14 is the ONE sports event I look forward to every single year. It’s the best club comp in the world (OF ANY SPORT 😉 ).

  • Comment 2, posted at 23.03.09 08:03:25 by klempie Reply
  • I didn’t really think many would take the time to read this, but it IS VERY GOOD.

  • Comment 3, posted at 23.03.09 09:32:22 by KSA Shark © Reply
    KSA Shark ©
  • I have to agree with a well written article, I don’t think that expansion is the answer for the S14, rather we should look at limiting the teams making for a more competitive comp. There is no joy in watching the Cheetahs getting hammered week in and week out. Someone has already made the suggestion, but we should look at a Super 8 perhaps with a premier division and then a 1st division with a Japanese side and perhaps an Argentinian side. At the end of the comp have relegation promotion matches.

  • Comment 4, posted at 23.03.09 09:38:59 by BrotherLou Reply
  • @Whindy (Comment 1) :

    I am all for going back to proper tours but you can’t set a fixed schedule of 2 years or alternating with the world cup on it though. That would then mean a 4 year cycle for tours as you probably won’t get any major tours in a RWC year.

    I would go with a proper tour schedule with dirt trackers and all and schedule the tours for the world to be involved.
    That way when we play NZ after a three or four year absence from our shores the stadiums will be bursting at the seems.

    As an EXAMPLE

    year one sees: SA v ENG, NZ v Wales, France v Aus, Scotland v Arg
    year two sees : Wales v SA, Aus v England, Ireland v Arg, NZ v Scotland
    year three sees: SA v NZ, England v Arg, Scotland v Aus, Ireland v France.

    The above is by NO MEANS CLOSE to a perfect schedule but it illustrates that the big nations should play each other once every few years rather than every year.

  • Comment 5, posted at 23.03.09 09:43:17 by KSA Shark © Reply
    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 5) :

    Leave the 6N the way it is, revert to a each team plays each other once 3N.

  • Comment 6, posted at 23.03.09 09:44:08 by KSA Shark © Reply
    KSA Shark ©
  • @BrotherLou (Comment 4) :

    The problem we have in SA is that we need to placate the Big 5.

    The Big 5 each want a S14 team, but the Cheetahs have shown that they are like a Dog chasing a bus with their S14 spot. Now that they have caught it they don’t have a flippen clue how to deal with it.

    Let’s face facts the BIG 5 need to be the ones to make the sacrifice on the S14 front.

  • Comment 7, posted at 23.03.09 09:48:47 by KSA Shark © Reply
    KSA Shark ©
  • Why dont we just simplify things.

    Top rugby players are expected to play 30 games a year, with hopefully 8 weeks recovery.

    That should be the starting point, that should be how we design competitions – with this in mind.

    The Super 14 is the premier comp, so they will be expected to play all games there, the challeng for SA in particular would be to ensure our best 150 players are in this comp.

    So establish the 6th franchise, at the expense of the lowest ending franchise the year before – promote/relegate either through a play-off or just automatically.

    Employ a conference system where we can somehow ensure the top players are evenly distributed amongst all franchises. The lowest ending franchise having first pick.

    So 13 games in the Super 14 – 17 games left.

    Shorten the 3N to what it initiall was, two games home and away against each team.

    That is 4 tests – 13 games left.

    June tests, either the NH send strengthened teams and not B and C teams or they play against the Emerging Boks.

    Usually 3 tests – 10 games remain.

    Shorten the CC with one round robin match between all teams.

    That is 7 games of which the Boks will arguably only 4 given the 3N schedule.

    EOYT made up of between 3 to 5 tests, more than enough games for our top players to ensure they do not play more than 30 games, and fans are treated to more compact, high intensity good quality rugby with the best on show.

  • Comment 8, posted at 23.03.09 10:01:35 by Morné Reply
  • Certainly in its current format, the competition is not engaging the New Zealand public. The decline in viewers has been steady and pronounced.

    In the first five weeks of Super 14 in 2006 – February 17 to March 18 – the average audience for games played in New Zealand was 276,000 according to AGB Nielsen.

    In 2007, when the competition kicked off on February 2, the average audience for the first five weeks was 186,000. When the competition started on February 15 last year, the average dropped to 178,000 and this year, in the first five weeks, only an average of 141,000 have been tuned in.

  • Comment 9, posted at 23.03.09 10:03:31 by KSA Shark © Reply
    KSA Shark ©
  • Employ a conference system where we can somehow ensure the top players are evenly distributed amongst all franchises. The lowest ending franchise having first pick.

    Ag nee man!!!!!! That just sounds so “socialistic”. Why give a lowly team first pick, why distribute the players evenly?

    THAT is a recipe for SA never winning the comp ever again, the only reason we have one or two sides doing well is because they have a lot of good players. To go and water down ALL the SA teams is just not an option IMO. 🙁

  • Comment 10, posted at 23.03.09 10:07:22 by KSA Shark © Reply
    KSA Shark ©
  • So 13 games in the Super 14 – 17 games left

    Damn right only 13. with the watered down teams we’ll never make the playoffs. 😛

  • Comment 11, posted at 23.03.09 10:08:38 by KSA Shark © Reply
    KSA Shark ©
  • @Morné (Comment 8) :

    Other than THAT your suggestion makes a lot of sense.

  • Comment 12, posted at 23.03.09 10:10:00 by KSA Shark © Reply
    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 10) :


    Seems to have worked quite well for NZ with 4 of their teams always challenging for a semi spot over the history of the competition…

  • Comment 13, posted at 23.03.09 10:11:14 by Morné Reply
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 10) :

    The point is, why do we have to see or watch a Barry Goodes in the Super 14 because the Lions have no-one better where there is a good inside center sitting on the bench at the BUlls?

    You get it to ensure your TOP 150 players actually play.

  • Comment 14, posted at 23.03.09 10:12:49 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 14) :

    Or not even on the bench, it should have read playing VC rugby! if he was on the bench at least he would have served a purpose…

  • Comment 15, posted at 23.03.09 10:13:57 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 14) :

    How many TOP SA players are their sitting on the bench at provinces though?

    Not very many I assure you.

    The only postions where I would say any province has someone sitting on the bench that another Province could use more effeciently is Bismarck who could give the Bulls a decent Hooker.

    I can’t think of any others

  • Comment 16, posted at 23.03.09 10:19:49 by KSA Shark © Reply
    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 16) :

    Just go look at the VC squads of most teams, then have a look at how many passengers there are in some franchises…

  • Comment 17, posted at 23.03.09 10:25:25 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 17) :

    passengers maybe here and there but there are almsot no TOP players playing VC. None that i can think of.

  • Comment 18, posted at 23.03.09 10:29:55 by KSA Shark © Reply
    KSA Shark ©
  • “Quantity dominates, not quality. In the professional era, chasing the dollar has seen more and more games and tests created – overkill.”

    There is the problem right there. Money money money. “How can we make more” attitude is why the financial markets crashed, and nonbody is learning from their mistakes!

  • Comment 19, posted at 23.03.09 10:30:32 by Rahul Reply
  • I actually don’t think there’s all that much wrong with rugby at the moment.

    Everyone is busy trying to play flipping Che Guevara all the time…

  • Comment 20, posted at 23.03.09 10:34:23 by robdylan Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 13) : The kiwis central management system has helped them to dominate the competition but has also served to bore their fans.
    The article comes from NZ. Their rugby is in a crises. SA does not want to go the same way.

  • Comment 21, posted at 23.03.09 13:09:16 by fyndraai Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld fyndraai
  • @fyndraai (Comment 21) : I reckon Sharks and Bulls fans will tell you it’s working just fine right now 🙂

  • Comment 22, posted at 23.03.09 14:09:53 by robdylan Reply
  • I’d think if they can make the tests and S14 games afternoon matches overthere they’ll attrack more spectators. Thats not much of a change?

    If you got a family like myself it makes watching live just much more easy and trust me its important to take the kid to Newlands. Thats where they change into rugby lovers.

    I also tghink the Aussies is just plain arseholes on this. Let them take S14 rugby + 3 Nations and bring back the tours with CC rugby.

  • Comment 23, posted at 23.03.09 15:08:36 by PaarlBok Reply
  • Forget the tours its part of a bygone era.

    Amateur teams go on rugby tours.
    Professional teams go on business trips.

  • Comment 24, posted at 23.03.09 15:19:02 by fyndraai Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld fyndraai
  • @robdylan (Comment 22) : I’m all for getting the teams more competitive too, but instead of trying to spread the talent in SA even thinner, they should look at getting players back from Europe.
    Pay larger salaries to fewer players. Let the fringe and young develop their skills in Europe.

  • Comment 25, posted at 23.03.09 15:24:11 by fyndraai Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld fyndraai
  • @fyndraai (Comment 24) : So what do you call the Lions tour?

    Forget about the money aspect just thing about the adding of rugby values to the small towns.

    This town brings 30,000 supporters to a school rugby game, just think what it will mean if the All Blacks appear here and they mix a bit with the locals.

    Thats what the modern game is missing. We saw over the weekend a rugby game on Epangeni, this weekend in Piketberg, Athlone is due for one.

    The Aussies cant even geta provincial game going, tonight we watch the semis of the Varsity Cup.

    Rugby is strong in this country because its in our culture (altho Keo missed the plot) and history. Not because of Murdock, SuperSport or whoever. Take the game to the people and they will pay to watch their teams.

  • Comment 26, posted at 23.03.09 15:30:48 by PaarlBok Reply
  • @fyndraai (Comment 25) : You totally miss the plot here. Take the CC away and we is moer to. The CC , Vodacom Cup, Varsity Cup is the bottom half of S14. They produce the players we have. The CC U21s & U19s is important just as much as the senior teams. We should rather try and grow the game at the bottom of the structure. Thats schoolboy rugby. Get more schools in the game , then we can reap the rewards at the top.

  • Comment 27, posted at 23.03.09 15:34:40 by PaarlBok Reply
  • @PaarlBok (Comment 26) : The fact that the amateur game in SA is alive and well is good. It can and should finance itself.
    The pro game money should mostly go to the pro players because that is what most fans pay for and that is what we want to see. The best play the best.
    If they divert money to pay a bunch of never-will-be players to play in games that few people watch, the best will go to Europe and the fans will follow them.

  • Comment 28, posted at 23.03.09 16:29:06 by fyndraai Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld fyndraai
  • @fyndraai (Comment 28) :

    I dont think the amateur game is at all well in SA.

    Having played both SA and the UK, I can honestly say the amateur game is nowhere near where it needs to be in SA.
    Biggest problem is violence unfortunately.

    When, as an amateur, you’re playing a game in Green Point and a spectator pulls out a gun and tells your lock not to catch the next line-out ball, you can’t honestly tell me the amateur game is in good shape.

    Nobody wants to play under such conditions and consequently thousands of would-be rugby players drink their weekends away instead of playing rugby.

    The incident mentioned above is not an isolated event.

  • Comment 29, posted at 23.03.09 16:43:06 by VinChainSaw Reply
  • @VinChainSaw (Comment 29) :
    I stand corrected then. Those events are bad but has very little to do with the pro game.
    Any player over 21 that has not been noticed by the pro teams will never play pro and therefore the lock, the spectator and the game in Green Point is of little interest to me (in a rugby sense) and I’d prefer that none of the monies I pay to see games from Newlands go there.

  • Comment 30, posted at 23.03.09 16:53:57 by fyndraai Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld fyndraai
  • @fyndraai (Comment 30) :

    I couldnt agree more fundraai.

  • Comment 31, posted at 23.03.09 16:56:22 by VinChainSaw Reply
  • 2.8km in 12 minutes muppets. 😎

  • Comment 32, posted at 23.03.09 21:39:11 by klempie Reply
  • @klempie (Comment 32) : that is just scary

  • Comment 33, posted at 23.03.09 22:07:16 by robdylan Reply
  • @robdylan (Comment 33) : Thank you, thank you. 😎

  • Comment 34, posted at 23.03.09 23:23:28 by klempie Reply

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