From a South African perspective the rugby calendar makes little sense. The way the international fixtures are currently set out does not really allow for any competition to run its course to completion, it has therefor been proposed that there will be a break in the Super Rugby competition next year to allow the June tour window, and then the Super Rugby competition will resume. In between all this, there is a Currie Cup that will now take a further step back to accommodate the Super Rugby and International fixtures.
These are the current problems facing SA rugby:
- SARU administration
- Appointments and reasons on why coaches are appointed including player selection policy
- Getting Franchises to work with Springbok rugby
- Currie Cup
- Vodacom cup
- International windows and scheduling of all these fixtures.
These problems aren’t insurmountable, but it would need a collective focus from all participating bodies to solve these issues. Some are internal issues, others need to be dealt with at a SANZAR level and international scheduling needs to be dealt with by the IRB.
Recently it was announced that SARU has restructured with the merging of the amateur and commercial arms of the organisation and the creation of a new structure more accurately focused on delivering on a revisited strategic plan.
Jurie Roux, CEO of SARU:
“And then there are the operational matters, and by year end we would expect to have a clearly defined vision and mission statement and an operational structure that speaks to SARU’s strategic goals.” Away from the top end of the sport, SARU is doing a lot of work at grassroots level to ensure the game’s success for future generations. The dissolving of the old commercial arm (SA Rugby (Pty) Ltd) into SARU will be significant in all this, says Roux.
“Developing and fostering the game at a grassroots level had been separated out from promotion and commercial development of the game at an elite level and obviously the synergies between the two had been lost. What the change allows is the reintegration of all elements into more streamlined and focused units in which both of the former arms can benefit. We’re now in a position where the boundaries have gone and we’re much better placed to develop the game and exploit the opportunities that arise, whether they be in grassroots development programmes or in maximising returns from commercial opportunities.”
“The organisation had been divided into a professional arm, SA Rugby (Pty) Ltd, to look after commercial brands – wholly owned by SARU – which looked after amateur rugby and the development side of the game. The organisation had two governance structures and two operational heads as well as separate operations staff, although some services were shared between the two. Removing that duplication and aligning the organisation’s goals has been a significant change,” Roux explains.
The South Africa Rugby Players association recently also won their arbitration case against SARU.
According to SARPA CEO Piet Heymans, the arbitration award is a victory for players in the country. “The arbitration award confirms that the Collective Agreement is binding on SARU and that SARPA is entitled to representation on the SARU Executive Council.
” Heymans said in a statement. What this all means for the future of SA rugby is still to be seen. It is all good and well they started with the streamlining of the operational aspects and looking toward the development of grass roots level, but yet no confirmation that the people employed by SARU are there for the good of the game”.
Coaching appointments and reasons for appointing coaches including player selection policy
SARU has to decide whether their priority is to be the best rugby team in the world, or whether their priority is to appease the politicians. They cannot do both at international level. In a sport as competitive as rugby is, the game of inches cannot be won when quality is compromised. The Springboks is an international brand and competes against the best in the world, no other country puts politics ahead of their national team. The same principal applies to selection of the squad. Selecting just one player for the sake of representation has such a knock-on effect it can destroy the team ethos.
Getting Franchises to work with Springbok rugby
How many times have we heard that Peter de Villiers requested a franchise to play a certain player in a specific position? How many times has there been a call of managing of players? If there is no collective agreement on what the end goal is, then SARU needs to gain control of the franchises to facilitate their ultimate requirements. If not, then the status quo will remain.
Where do you fit in your premier domestic competition?
My solution – it needs to somehow form part of the Super Rugby competition, perhaps change the Conference system to be only domestic teams and then have qualifiers proceed to a super 12 round robin.
This is really only a development tool for the players not involved in the Super Rugby tournament. If the top 8 Premier Currie cup teams are pulled into the Super Rugby tournament, then use this as a development tool for the other 6 provinces and add not only the Pampas and Namibia, but perhaps use this as an opportunity to bring in Kenya and Morocco as well.
Looking at next year’s fixtures, there is not enough time to complete any tournament before the June test wondow, there is then a 7 week gap to the Four Nations and then four weeks later the tour to Europe. Why not move the June test series by 4 weeks to July. This then means the Test series begins in July and is good preparation for the Four Nations three weeks later.
This allows 20 weeks for the Super Rugby competition in which every format is selected beginning the first week of February.
The format of the current Super Rugby Conference System is flawed. Change the Conference format so that each Conference includes only domestic teams of each country. Let them play out a single round robin and the top four teams of each Conference qualifies for the super 12’s, these Franchises can then play a single round robin for qualifying for the knock-out matches.
This will enable more teams to be involved in the Super Rugby format and spread the talent to more teams as they will have more money and you won’t end up with one Franchise sitting with 2 or sometimes 3 of the best players in one position.
Example: If the 8 Premier Currie Cup teams play a single round robin against every opponent, it will take seven weeks to conclude. Then the top four goes into a single round robin with the other top 4 teams of Australia and New Zealand. You will have twelve teams playing a single round robin of eleven matches. Add to that the two weeks for knock-out matches and you have your 20 week window filled.
Once the Super Rugby Tournament is concluded, the Winter Tours can commence after a two week preparation, then the Four Nations after another three week recovery and preparation period and then onto the European Tours.
In my opinion this will reduce the number of matches played by top players, and the domestic season will be out of the way by the time the international season starts. It will also give more exposure to more teams by combining the Currie Cup Premier teams (in the case of New Zealand the ITM Cup teams) and Australia can run a Conference with however many teams they can muster.
The Vodacom Cup can then run during the same time as the Super Rugby competition, and in all likelyhood with 6 teams from South Africa and adding Namibia, Pampas, Kenya and Morocco – a double round robin competition can be accommodated.
This way we help Africa develop as well, and we can always have a promotion-relegation for our two top Vodacom Cup teams against the 2 worst performing Super Rugby Conference teams at the end of the two competitions.
Anyway just some thoughts.