Is this really the pride of the provinces?

Written by Sharon van Wyk (Shaz)

Posted in :Currie Cup, Original Content, Springboks on 3 Oct 2011 at 19:16
Tagged with : , , ,

I’ve been sitting and watching, silently, for weeks now. At first I was upbeat and positive that this year’s Currie Cup would be exciting and full of spice, not in spite of South Africa’s “star” players being whisked away on Springbok duty but BECAUSE of them being absent…

I thought the lack of Bok talent would give a different flavour to what has become largely a four-horse race in recent years. Now, with the semi-finals just around the corner, I have to admit that the Currie Cup without the Bokke has ZERO flavour at all. It is as bland as cold rice pudding and just as unappetising.

Naas Botha reckons that rugby is dying a death in South Africa, and if the performances dished up in this year’s Currie Cup are anything to go by I’d say he’s bang on the button. With a few small exceptions there has been little to distinguish South Africa’s oldest and best-loved rugby competition from an English Saturday afternoon amateur club knock-out (indeed, said Saturday afternoon knock-outs tend to draw larger crowds than have graced the hallowed stadia of South Africa in recent weeks!)

Oh yes, I’m sure there are the usual suspects out there jumping up and down right now and screaming about the stellar show the Lions are putting on, and how marvelous it is to see new talent like Johan Goosen and Demtetri Catrakilis making their respective marks on the game… But let’s all take a deep breath, sit very still and actually think for a minute…

We are talking about the Currie Cup here. Not the Vodacom Cup. Not the Varsity Cup. And to be completely honest with all of you out there in Sharksworld-land, the standard of rugby being played in it this year is for the most part a bloody disgrace.

With the exception of the Lions there is not one team participating in this year’s competition that has managed to field a consistently good squad. There have been some consistently good players, but no outstanding team performances week-on-week and so much player rotation that you’d be forgiven for thinking that provincial selection was something of a lottery.

Is there really so little depth in our provinces? And if so, where on earth is it? Because it seems to me that some of our coaches are trying out new faces every single week in the seemingly vain hope that one of them will be good enough to make a return appearance in the same position.

Fair enough, there have been some injuries to contend with. But again, surely these have to be factored into a starting 22 set-up where coaches are concerned? But the overwhelming feeling I get when Friday night and Saturday afternoon comes around is one of apathy. Players, coaches, and fans alike seem completely comatose. Rugby-ed out, almost.

There is no spark of excitement, no air of anticipation… No atmosphere of expectancy… No LOVE for rugby coming at me over the airwaves… Instead there is the dull and lifeless patina of boredom, both on the field and off it. Everyone is going through the motions. The wheel is turning but the hamster is over in New Zealand, waving the Green and Gold.

Could it be that the Springboks are the life and soul of South Africa’s rugby party? We’ve all tried SO hard to deny it, and to lift the Currie Cup up out of the doldrums of post-Bok-partum depression, saying how great it is to have a “pure” rugby competition again without the highly paid, high-flying stars. Is it? Really?

To compensate for the absence of excitement we’ve even tried to elevate rookies to the ranks of potential Springboks, in our desperation to generate some much-needed sparks of interest and find reasons to sit through the purgatory each weekend. But to no avail. No matter how hard we try we just can’t buy our own hype. Not really. Not if we’re honest.

So instead we blame the coaches for the lacklustre performances… It HAS to be their fault because if it isn’t, who do we blame? Yes. It’s the coaches’ fault. After all, what do they do? They’re just “ex players with expense accounts” after all, and waste everyone’s time and money by making useless selections just to irritate us and ruin our weekends.

Do we blame the players who, for the most part, have been playing week on week since the start of January, with very little to no downtime? No, they’re PROFESSIONALS and are PAID to do a job, so they just jolly well must put up and shut up and do what they are paid to do, because if we had such a great opportunity we’d never have an off day or let the fact that our bodies are worn out put us off doing our best in front of 15 men and a dog booing from the stands of an empty stadium.

So, who then? Well… Here’s a thought… How about we blame our own insatiable appetites for being entertained and uncompromising attitudes to failure for killing the game we love? Why? Because we sit in front of a machine and EXPECT nothing less than perfection each and every week, believing ourselves to be stakeholders in a game which we allow to dictate every aspect of our waking lives?

We buy the beer they advertise, use the deodorant, drive the car, wear the T-shirt and eat the snacks… And when it doesn’t go the way we want it to we thrash about wildly looking for someone to carry the can.

On second thoughts, no. We can’t even blame ourselves for the watching-paint-drying experience that is Currie Cup 2011. We’re part of the system. Not the root cause of it. And it’s a system in trouble. A system with a startling gap which the Bok-less Currie Cup has shown up in all its gaudy glory… The gap between good and GREAT. A gap that years of the “this is the way we’ve always done it” approach to rugby development in South Africa has created, which is getting wider every year.

If the absence of 30 players can turn South Africa’s and the world’s premier provincial rugby tournament into something akin to the mess my dog threw up after breakfast this morning, what, precisely, does that say about the state of rugby in this fine nation of ours?

No matter what happens on or off the field, in our glorious stadia or the corridors of power, rugby should ALWAYS be the winner in a tournament like the Currie Cup.

So, do me a favour this weekend and find out how many people actually pay to go to the stadia across our nation and support rugby, and then work out on average how much money they put in the pockets of the unions whose stadia they graced.

Then take away the players’ and staff salaries, the cost of opening and running the stadia for the match… all of the various overheads… and if you can tell me that rugby is winning I’ll tattoo a Blue Bull on my bum.

Sadly, I think my backside is safe!


  • The CC has not been that bad for me, the Pumas and Leopards have been entertaining, the Sharks and Griquas was disappointments so far especially after impressive first games against the Bulls and WP. WP realy surprised me with their team of boys. The Bulls showed promise. The Lions played some entertaining rugby but their lack of depth and the Cheetahs are at the moment the Johan Goosen show.

  • Comment 1, posted at 03.10.11 20:04:36 by Mutley Reply
  • I don’t think the Boks will make that big difference. Not considering injuries
    1. Cheetahs
    They only get Heinrich Brussow and he would make a huge impact with the Johan Goosen show
    2. Lions
    They get Butch James and CJ vd Linde, that will give them a bit of depth
    3. Bulls
    Chillyboy Ralapele, Pierre Spies, Frans Hougaard and Morne Steyn, but the players they have their has played well
    4. WP
    Schalk Burger, Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Jongh, Gio Aplon and Brian Habana. It would hugely improve their backline
    5. Beast, Bismark, Jannie, Willem Alberts, Patrick Lambie, JP Petersen and Odwa Ndungane. It would improve their front row almost to the point of unstoppable with the best loosehead and hooker in their ranks, but Lambie would play against Freddie for FH and the Sharks wings are not to bad as well.

    John Smit-Overseas
    Guthro Steenkamp-overseas
    Bakkies Botha-overseas
    Danie Rossow-overseas
    Johan Muller-overseas
    Francois Louw-overseas
    Ruan Pienaar-overseas
    Fourie du Preez-overseas
    Frans Steyn-overseas
    Victor Matfield- Retiring

    10 players should not even be considered due to playing over seas or retiring after the WC

  • Comment 2, posted at 03.10.11 20:22:00 by Mutley Reply
  • The Sharks are the only team realy suffering due to the WC, WP is just injuries but I think there might be something wrong with their conditioning

  • Comment 3, posted at 03.10.11 20:24:09 by Mutley Reply
  • CC rugby has become an after thought ,its similar to the relationship between 3n and world cups, look at ac he has just put together a team and used a shotgun approach to measure the capacity of his young guns -rugbys not dying in this country its just the cc that is 🙁

  • Comment 4, posted at 03.10.11 20:36:42 by Talent Reply
  • Three things come to mind:
    1. The CC will always be an afterthought in a World Cup year. No other tournament can compete with it.
    2. This is the first year of the ‘Bokless’ format (barring previous WC years). Give the coaches, players and public a chance to get used to the new feel before judging it so harshly.
    3. Some coaches are still not getting it and overplaying their non-WC players to physical and mental exhaustion. We’re not really seeing the young talent in the amounts we were hoping for. Heck, even the fringe players in some squads are seeing little to no game time. What little young talent we have seen has proved to be very exciting. This lack of faith will come back to bite the coaches in next year’s S15 and hopefully they’ll catch a wake up by the next CC.

    In summary, it’s really way to early to know whether this ‘new’ CC is a failure. Naas Botha is a brilliant tactician but I don’t put much faith in his attempts at prophecy.

  • Comment 5, posted at 03.10.11 20:55:49 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @Mutley (Comment 3) : Dude, I think you’ve been watching a different Currie Cup to the one I’ve been keeping an eye on.

  • Comment 6, posted at 03.10.11 22:27:07 by SharonvanWyk Reply
  • @vanmartin (Comment 5) : You don’t have to be a prophet to understand that 20 years ago the Currie Cup was way more impressive than it is today, both in terms of the quality of the rugby being played and in terms of the level of support it received from the paying public.
    The professional era has changed the face of South African rugby – the only problem is that South African rugby has not woken up to that fact yet, and until the professional game is run and managed in a professional manner by professionals there is not much to suggest that things will improve.

  • Comment 7, posted at 03.10.11 22:33:07 by SharonvanWyk Reply
  • Hey Shaz..

    Well written piece, thought provoking as always..

    Have to admit though, I don’t necessarily agree with everything you say.

    Rugby 20 years ago was a different ball game, and we cannot expect it to be the same still.

    And as far as I can remember, the Boks, well most of them anyway, missed most of the round robin games last year as well, yet it was so much better?

    Can it be as simple as saying that there is just too much rugby around?

  • Comment 8, posted at 03.10.11 22:47:26 by Richard Ferguson Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Administrator
    Richard Ferguson
  • I have actually quite enjoyed the Currie Cup to be honest. I do wish that some more of the coaches had a bit more of an approach to bringing through youth thought. I think the coaches should be using the CC to bring depth when the S15 comes around, as it is going to be mega long next year and a squad of 22 will be absolutely imperative. I think the Sharks have been the worst in this regard.
    The other real problem that the CC has is players deciding to play abroad. A lot of the SA players now are moving abroad younger either for international reasons or if they are unlikely to play for the Boks. To some extent this is quite a good thing as it means that a lot of younger talent comes through. For example at the Cheetahs both Naas Olivier and Willem de Waal were both there and now they have moved on and Johan Goosen has burst through. But it can also be detrimental as squads have to be rebuilt and new players have to play with unfamiliar players.

  • Comment 9, posted at 03.10.11 22:55:29 by Pat Reply

  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 8) : This year, yes, there is definitely an aroma of overkill where rugger is concerned.
    I agree that rugby 20 years ago was a different ball game, but the point is that the game has not improved exponentially with the times. If you look at other sports such as soccer and tennis, the improvement in the standards of the game have kept pace with the improvements in administration and management of it. And development has in turn kept pace.
    Where South Africa is concerned while the game at its highest level is improving, along with the standards of those who play it, in terms of its development little to nothing has changed in the way it is taught from school level upwards.
    And attendance at the franchises is way down.
    Too much rugby? Or not enough quality rugby? You choose.

  • Comment 10, posted at 03.10.11 23:00:14 by SharonvanWyk Reply
  • @SharonvanWyk (Comment 10) :

    Fair point..

    Administration has never been South Africa’s strong point, and I have to agree that development and admin around rugby could improve.

    As for quality, depleted and tired squads make for substandard rugby.

    I give it a year or two for the full effect of the extended Super Season to be felt.

  • Comment 11, posted at 03.10.11 23:04:31 by Richard Ferguson Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Administrator
    Richard Ferguson
  • @Pat (Comment 9) : Another reason for our players to go overseas is the extended SupeRugby season which wears bodies out a lot quicker. It has been calculated that playing SupeRugby as it stands could reduce a player’s career by as much as five years in terms of the physical stress it inflicts. That’s a lot to ask in terms of lost income and shortened career lifespans.

  • Comment 12, posted at 03.10.11 23:05:01 by SharonvanWyk Reply
  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 8) :

    jip i have to agree .

    i remember distinctly somebody writing an article last year here on sharks world just before the semis saying : ok before we get our boks back here are the guys who got us to the semis with names like Rhoads and Cilliers featuring on that list .

    The problem with rugby ( and this is off course just my opinion ) is that once your team loose a big amount of games or play below par rugby the competition gets ‘Boring’ .

    If you ask me Super rugby is over rated ? why ? to be totally and complete honest im tiered of watching my team play rubbish rugby and loosing week in and week out .

    Now the Lions are performing in the CC and for me its the best thing since sliced bread because glory behold !!! my team is winning !!!

    i think the big problem at the sharks is you guys have less depth than last year …

  • Comment 13, posted at 04.10.11 07:44:36 by Zibbie Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner
  • Well to me the big difference is: 1. 20 yrs ago it was an amateur game – played and watched by the same kind. A nice past-time. 2. Superrugby only came in 1996 and Vodacom cup in 1998. So there was not the same amount of rugby – so yes, it was still a “treat”. 3. One of the most important RWC are on at the moment – one cannot blame spectators for being less interested at the moment. We would like to become the 1st country to defend it succesfully…all eyes on the RWC then! 4. I think there is simply too much rugby and the players are being over-used. 5. I don’t think the CC is that bad if u look in terms of younger players having to give babysteps – if you expect the game of 20 yrs ago, for sure u are gonna be dissapointed – there is a saying: “the eye only sees what the mind is prepared to comprehend” So instead of allowing circumstance to take over our life and determine our attitude, we need to change the attitude and allow the circumstances to change effortlessly.

  • Comment 14, posted at 04.10.11 08:29:51 by Ice Ice Bokkie Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @Zibbie (Comment 13) : Hey Zibbie, Congrats! I believe this CC is yours to lose, hope you climbed in early on sportsbet . . . I know I did :mrgreen:

    On another positive note, the province victory certainly didn`t suit the bulls! :mrgreen:

  • Comment 15, posted at 04.10.11 08:44:04 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original Pierre
  • 20 years ago South Africa was not allowed to play international rugby. No tours, no overseas clubs, nothing, the only thing we had was Currie Cup rugby, that was our pinnacle. It was a time when Maties vs Tukkies sold out Newlands and Loftus. Its not fair to compare rugby in SA in 1991 as opposed to 2011.

  • Comment 16, posted at 04.10.11 08:50:58 by Salmonoid Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Salmonoid the Subtle
  • @Original Pierre (Comment 15) :

    haha have a look at my Superbru and state again that i should do betting ….

    on another note hoping to get something done in the LMS and FL !!!!

  • Comment 17, posted at 04.10.11 08:54:21 by Zibbie Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner
  • Very nice article and although a few disagrees, there must be something wrong if you look at attendance of Currie Cup games, not only this year, but the last couple of years.
    But by the way, I’m still at every game played at Kings Park and although my team’s experiencing a slump in form right now, I still don’t think any competition can replace this one. We just need the guys in charge to make few small adjustments here and there and before you know it we all will forget this piece and the feeling we got when we read it.
    Even this year’s CC had so much potential, with all the young talents that have been exposed. South Africa just doesn’t know how to market even the best of products.
    Somehow America manages to fill up stadiums for every single American football, Basket ball and Baseball game, yet when you speak to the people going to the games you realise that they have far less passion for their game than we have for ours. Somehow these Americans just got a way to keep the stadiums full, even teams who haven’t won anything in years.
    What do they have that we don’t? How come a ticket to one of their games is so precious and ours are basically being handed just to try and get more people to the stadium?

  • Comment 18, posted at 04.10.11 08:58:28 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • The problem I have with the Currie Cup is that its become a nothing competition as a result of the extended Super rugby and now 4 Nations. The Currie Cup was the Premier Domestic Rugby Competiton- not a place to give the youth a run! The Vodacom Cup and Varsity Cup is where the youth is supposed to be given a run! So either the Vodacom Cup should be scrapped and let Currie Cup be the competion where the 2nd tier players play or people should be allowed to moan about the level of play in the Premier Rugby Competiton in SA. And dont get me started about using u21s…they have their own competion! If we were winning Junior World titles everytime then yes they should be playing senior rugby….

  • Comment 19, posted at 04.10.11 09:07:10 by SheldonK Reply

  • @Letgo (Comment 18) :
    The US has 280 million people with a significant amount of disposable income. SA has less than 50 million, and an unemployment rate of about 30%.

    Personally I think its just par for the course that CC attendance will suffer during a WC. My only gripe would be stadium attendance – I find CC rugby open and fun to watch (except for the Sharks of recent vintage); no idea why people don’t want to watch this.

  • Comment 20, posted at 04.10.11 09:55:46 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • You need to hype up a competition. All the hype this year is focused on the WC. Out of WC years the hype is now about Super rugby, who stole the CC and embedded it in their competition.

    So now you have to invest in hyping up the CC. To do that successfully the players and coaches need to understand their value in such a venture.

  • Comment 21, posted at 04.10.11 10:24:14 by Silver Fox Reply

    Silver Fox
  • @SharonvanWyk (Comment 7) : I can point out the follies of comparing the CC of twenty years ago to today’s competition but I’d just be rehashing the same points that others have already made.

    Instead I’ll simply ask the following question: Would a Lion or Cheetah supporter share all your sentiments at the moment?

  • Comment 22, posted at 04.10.11 10:29:11 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • It may be necessary to marry rugby to music for instance. Someone made fun of Steve and the Bulls earlier, but it is not a bad idea to give people something more than just rugby 😯 ….hehehe really no pun intended.

  • Comment 23, posted at 04.10.11 10:31:04 by Silver Fox Reply

    Silver Fox
  • @Letgo (Comment 18) : Far less passion for the game? Have you met a Packers fan? By their own admission they only do three things: Drink beer, make cheese and support the Packers. Replace the cheese part with something more awesome like braai or biltong and you’ve just described every South African rugby fan.

  • Comment 24, posted at 04.10.11 10:33:18 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @vanmartin (Comment 24) : I realise my personal experience is nothing to go by, since I only met a couple of Americans in the time that I lived there, but the ones I met don’t even understand what real passion is. They’re passionate about going to the game, but when you watch a game with them or start debating the game with them they don’t really seem to care much.

    And one or two of these described themselves as avid fans. Patriots and Duke (College football).

    Maybe I’m also taking reference from this site and my living room to compare passion. Let’s say those that I have encountered on this site and sit on my living room couch every Saturday to watch the games, are more passionate than the few Americans that I have met.

    I geuss it really depends on who you met and Fish’s very intelectual answer to my post, actually really puts it into perspective.

    @Big Fish (Comment 20) : Thanks, I agree with you, I was just so passionate, I tried to find an answer where it didn’t really make that much sense to look for it.

    Now we just need to grow to 280 million and with that grow our economy. How much time do you think that will take? 🙂

  • Comment 25, posted at 04.10.11 14:13:15 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @Big Fish (Comment 20) : US Population is around 303 million at this point in time with about a 10% unemployment rate (although the unemployment rate for university graduates is 4.5%). Hopefully this keeps it in perspective.

    Letgo, baseball games are never sold out in the regular season and have never sold out. They only sell out in playoffs and the World Series. Baseball has 162 games played during the regular season (81) home games), and the very best teams are only filling a total of 3 million seats for the whole season, while most average teams fill 1.5 to 2 million seats the entire season. The average baseball stadium has 50 thousand seats, so bottom line is the stadia are barely half full on average.

    I have found that SA and Euro sports fans are significantly more passionate about their sport than a vast majority of American sports fans. For most Americans, the games are an excuse for a party, not necessarily to support a team. The Superbowl is a time for massive parties all over the countries where a vast majority of the fans watching the game have absolutely no affiliation with the two teams playing. Remember the Superbowl is played at a neutral venue and is sold out months in advance, well before the teams have been determined.

    Just far too much negativity around here after Sharks losses lately. Last I checked the Sharks have still won more games than any other team (other than the Lions), and are second on the log. Since they have won more games than everyone below them on the log, the only logical conclusion is that they have earned their second place on the log. Sharks supporters are at the point now where they find disappointment in the “WAY” the Sharks win a match or tournament, unbelievable, 25 years ago, Natal supporters were happy they made it to the premier division of the CC.

  • Comment 26, posted at 04.10.11 14:52:23 by Dancing Bear Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Dancing Bear
  • @Dancing Bear (Comment 26) : DB, the issue for me, and I feel many other fans is that while we are second on the log, and the performances to date may still prove to be adequate to win the Currie Cup, they have not engendered any faith in our ability to be competetive in the Super 15, which really is the highest level at which a franchise can compete.

    I suppose you could counter by saying that the Super 15 is not yet underway, and we should reserve judgement until we actually fail to perform; innocent until found guilty and all that jazz. Which is probably a fair point, but I just can’t help but feel like we’ve seen the movie of the script playing out in front of us before.

    Add to that the fact that some of our players, who are highly paid professionals, seem unable to execute even the basic functions of their profession,and the frustrating lack of evidence that this is being addressed in a meaningful manner, either through improvement of the individuals or developing alternatives. And so I can go on (and have, at length on many, many threads).

  • Comment 27, posted at 04.10.11 16:43:42 by Culling Song Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
    Culling Song

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