Editors Note


Volume 4, Week 31

Editors Note

Brilliant!     How times change in South African rugby. This could be the ambiguous title for an epic to rival Winston Churchill’s ‘History of the English Speaking People’. One thing is guaranteed it will put less people to sleep than the great Nobel laureate for literature’s masterpiece as government censors might opt for an age restriction with chapters like ‘Kamp Staaldraad’…. This however is not another article on the scandalous behavior fr om the game’s guardians, it is about support.

You see dear readers, in the old days and we are talking the ‘nasty’ days pre 1992, rugby in South Africa was a clear-cut affair. One could say it was black or white but that would be distorting the picture somewhat, more accurately it was light blue or white and blue. As a youngster growing up one was forced to ‘choose sides’ as it were between Northern Transvaal and Western Province as they were the perennial holders of the famous Currie Cup trophy.

‘Se.xy’ brands like the Sharks and the Stormers did not exist and although Natal was a big crowd favourite they lost too often to a Northern Free State side on a concrete patch cleverly disguised as a rugby field in Welkom and relegated to the B section. The Free State was renown for beautiful running rugby but again except for one glorious year in ’76 (aaaah, those were the days!) they have only been crowd pleasers and the equivalent of a rugby wholesale store. Transvaal was a weird one, always ha rd but a rather unfashionable team who never really caught on with supporters outside the confines of the West Rand. 

The problem for this supporter nowadays is, who to support? With writing a rugby column a fair amount of impartiality is expected, except where the Springboks are concerned. But what to do with the Currie Cup? The Bulls are playing some of the most attractive rugby ever seen and after the last two weekends, enter the Lions. This supporter always had a problem with the ‘northern’ provinces purely because of that ‘great’ ‘80’s invention of North vs South but now, the ‘se.xy’ stuff is coming from the two neighbors and it is brilliant. And not to forget some wonderful Pumas performances earlier in the season.

So, South African rugby has been re-programmed to adhere to Jan Smuts’ legacy of holism as we can be wonderfully proud of how certain coaches and teams are getting it right. Face it, coaching is not easy and there is no such thing as a quick fix or a shortcut. Time combined with tried and tested methods with a dose of innovation will go a long way with the most important ingredient today being man management. South African rugby is getting it right in some cases and the results are there for all to see however, there are still teams and unions that is getting it wrong – the results are even clearer to see. The telling Panasonic quote should apply, the quest for zero defect.

The last few weeks of the Currie Cup will be gripping especially the race for a home semi-final as Mr Basson so clearly admonished his player, mistakes can cost millions of rand. The coming weekend’s clash between the Lions and Blue Bulls is mouth watering and for this new convert a match to look forward to. The winner? Definitely South African rugby!


Ps: due to 'technical problems' there will be no quotes in this edition.


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Disappearing Public Access by Desmond Organ
For many expatriates in the United States the emergence of a broadband alternative to the limited cover provided by Fox Sports World will come as a welcome relief. For years viewers in North America had to be satisfied with delayed broadcasts, limited coverage of the South African teams in the Super 12 and if they were really unfortunate access to the Latin American version of coverage by Fox; often resulting in mid match interjections by a league match in the Copa Whatever.

Compounding this was the “outrageous” tendency of Fox to sell the broadcast rights to an Irish consortium which then sold on to the local bars and establishments at an ever increasing margin. The end result was that the average viewer was forced to fork out 20 dollars a match to watch their national teams. The bars were often left with only the takings from the bar and many viewers would wolf down some breakfast, drink an orange juice and be on their way. 

It was only going to be a matter of time before the brains at M-Net pursued the lucrative expatriate market comprising South Africans, Australians and New Zealanders. The fact that it has started in North America is not that surprising. There is a large expatriate South African community and they have less access to rugby than their counterparts in the United Kingdom. There is however a strange irony to the whole access issue. Increasingly rugby coverage has become controlled by the private networks and satellite broadcasters who are funding the tournaments and ultimately the salaries that are paid to professional rugby players. This means that access to coverage is limited to those that can afford satellite subscription or the process charged by the local pub.

Viewers in the United Kingdom are not faced with the 20 dollar at the door dilemma and they can amble off to their local Sky bar and watch many of the games in the various Southern Hemisphere competitions. The appearance of broadband access in the UK will clearly not be as lucrative for the likes of M-Net and this is another reason that they have chosen North America. The sad reality of all of this though is that the local man in the street from Johannesburg to Toronto cannot watch the matches on Pub lic television. What then is to become of the marketing of the game to the formerly disadvantaged communities in South Africa? The same argument could be made for the game in the UK where Grandstand on BBC enlightens viewers with coverage of a motor rally in “twee voels met een kool doodgeskietfontein” or extended coverage of the Para Olympics. 

This effectively means that access to rugby on public television is becoming non existent. In countries like England where football is the most popular sport the satellite and cable networks have done almost the same thing, so it is not just about the type of sport it is about the television rights and the access to them that is controlling the levels of access to the average person in the street. It is thus not surprising that teams like Argentina, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji are not being included in the lucrative deals that dominate the Southern Hemisphere. They do not have enough viewers to warrant inclusion. 

The opportunity of access by broadband is in itself a great opportunity for those rugby starved expatriates that like nothing more than to spend some part of their Saturday glued to the television and watching a good old game of rugby. It brings back memories, limits the feelings of anxiety associated with living in a new environment and best of all gives people access to the game that is played in Heaven.

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Bring on the Super 14 by Michael
Letter writer Rob Laing, in last week's edition, expressed his opinion that more Super 12 rugby is in fact a bad decision. This viewpoint is enforced by Gaffie du Toit who feels that winning the Currie Cup is more important that the Super 12. 

The fact is that no South African team has ever won the Super 12 (the Sharks have come closest), will they ever? Is this the common attitude of South African rugby players that this is a competition where they try damn hard, but will never succeed? 

Where they are cannon-fodder for the overseas sides and are only making up the numbers?

Recent form, in particular the 2004 edition, tends to reinforce the opinion that we are not the poor cousins of the Antipodeans.

I also believe that this year's Tri Nations success for the Boks will go a long way to removing that delusion of being a third rate rugby nation.

They say that New Zealand people are well-balanced . . because they have a chip on both shoulders! Let's hope we don't suffer the same fate. 

The Sharks and Stormers both managed two away wins in New Zealand and Australia, and overall, the four sides were unbeaten in 13 matches against Aussie and Kiwi opposition.

While it might not be worth popping the champagne just yet, this past year was one of the best for SA rugby. Over the nine years of the Super 12, SA teams have averaged 22.62 points to the Kiwis’ 29.6 and the Aussies’ 30.94.

The Sharks have contested four semi finals and two finals, and averaged 26.2 points. The Stormers missed out in 1997, but overall are second best, with an average of 26.12 points, and two semifinals. The Cats are third on 19.66 points with two semis, and finally come the Bulls with 18.55 points, and one semi-final.

I for one feel that more Super 12 rugby is great. Next year's diluted Currie Cup is not going to win fans when the likes of Blue Bulls play Border, or WP play Griffons! 

The Super 12 always attracts more spectators. The Sharks for example attracted an average of 33 245 fans per home game in the Super 12. During the Currie Cup it is closer to about 18 000, almost half. The Bulls averaged over 27 000, but in a Currie Cup match against Griquas, managed a paltry 5000.

Super 12 rugby is sustaining, diluted Currie Cup is great for the small unions, but does South Africa’s rugby cause no good.

I believe that a fifth franchise being based in Bloemfontein would be great for SA rugby. It would also bring more money to the Union and possible help stem the pilfering from the other, richer Unions.

It would give them a home, and an identity that is sadly lacking in the Cats camp (significantly drawing the smallest average crowd (21 000) of all South African teams this year.

No, I say Super 14 is the way forward! Strength vs strength..... isn't that what everyone wants?

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Letters to the Editor
Hi Lucas


Basson's outburst against Schalk Burger illustrated his incapacity for the position he holds at Western Province and he should be immediately dismissed by the executive. His concerns should have been directed to the team management for their consideration and action.

The Van Rooyen extradition/libel suite/IRB attention charge against Robbie Fleck may have had the opposite affect hoped for by him. Maturely letting the matter slide, as so much time had passed since the article's publication, would have proved he was the antithesis of a 'Dic.khead.' Since the matter, if finally brought to Court ,would have to be heard in the UK (interview was held there), it would be heard in front of a Judiciary that considers racialism charges made against both black and white, unlike the protections offered here! The description therefore will be proven conclusively that Van Rooyen is or is not a Dic.khead/racilaist/fornicating with SARFU administration. Is he certain he wants a result?

We live in such lekker interesting times, so thanks to Robbie Fleck for the continued entertainment.

Storm Ferguson

Hi Lucas

Geldwolf eet Vrystaat op

Ek stem saam oor die Vrystaat se situasie. Hulle verloor elke jaar van hul top spelers en moet dan weer van voor af span bou. Op die manier hou die ryk unies die Curriebeker uit die Vrystaat uit. (As jy nie sterk is nie, moet jy ryk wees.) 

Ek is bekommerd oor die stilte rondom die vyfde Super 14 span van SA. As Vrystaat dit kry, sal dit nie net die Geldwolf uit die Vrystaat hou nie, maar ook die ander unies dwing om hulle eie talent te soek en te ontwikkel. Dit kan net tot voordeel van SA rugby strek. Dit sal baie gaaf wees as die Curriebeker 'n bietjie rondskuif - nie net noord of suid nie, maar so af en toe oos en sentraal ook. Is die stilte die vrese van noord, oos en suid? Is dit 'n geval van "As Vrystaat hulle spelers gaan be hou, is ons dalk elke jaar die Curriebeker kwyt"? Hoekom lê Vrystaat na 10 wedstryde 2de? Seker omdat hulle nie verlede jaar so baie top spelers verloor het nie.

Red die Cheetah - ter wille van SA rugby!

Lucas, dankie vir jou weeklikse nuusbrief.

Bertie Liebenberg

Hi Lucas

Tjaart Coetzee, (ek dink dit is Tjaart), ek stem saam met jou oor die leeus se skrumskakel, dis ‘n jammerte dat hy nie ook sleg gespeel het teen die WP nie, maar ek stem nie saam met jou oor die afrokkel van spelers nie. As jy na jou Vrystaat span kyk, hoeveel spelers kom uit die WP? Shimange, Martin van Schalkwyk, Willem de Waal en Frankie Fredericks. 4 Spelers. Hoeveel van die WP kom uit die Vrystaat uit? Dawid Brits en Daan Human. Ek dink dat dit goed vir die spelers se loopbaan is om soms ‘ n verandering te maak. Faan Rautenbach het opgehou rugby speel totdat die WP hom oorreed het om weer te begin speel. Sou Willem de Waal en Derek Hougaard rugby op hoë vlak gespeel het as hulle in die WP gebly het? Ek betwyfel dit. Jake White het gesê dat hy nooit vir Schalk Burger en Luke Watson in dieselfde span sal laat speel nie. Wat ‘n goeie manier om vir Jake te wys dat die kombinasie wel werk as om in dieselfde provinsiale span te speel? Ek dink dat dit goed is vir rugby, waar gaan die uitsteke nde voorrye vandaan kom as die ander spanne nie die Vrystaatse voorrye koop nie? Dit dwing net die Vrystaat om ‘n paar van die jong goeie voorye weer uit te bring.

Ek is egter gekant teen die situasie dat Nz + Auz, Suidsee spelers kan aanwend na willekeur. Dan mag daardie speler nooit weer vir sy eie land speel nie.


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