Editors Note


Volume 6, Week 9

Editors Note

Brilliant!      It is just over half way in the toughest provincial competition in world rugby, the Super 14. That said it is probably the only professional provincial tournament in world rugby… so the label, like the Yanks’ Baseball World Series is a bit of a misnomer.

But, no worries from this side with the competition as such. The idea was/is a great one and even though the participants are not always up to the required standard (no, this is not another dig at the South African sides and the Reds but use it don't use it!) it remains a popular and profitable venture. One look at the Force’s support (do we measure them in pounds, dynes or newtons?) and it is clear that rugby is a valuable commodity for the accountants and a great form of entertainment for the, ahum… newtons. Unlike cricket.

Reading the other day through the excellent sports section of the Star, Johannesburg’s daily, much was my surprise at being notified that entrance at the local provincial cricket competition final will be free. Imagine, the Super 14 final at Ellis Park, whoa apologies that will never happen, say Jade Stadium or Aussie Stadium allow free admittance? Well, never but that is the reality dear readers of this country’s biggest summer sport. And they do not even have a 10th of the issues political and administrative that surrounds rugby and football…

What is the point you may ask? Well, SA Cricket is languishing pretty far down the world order and considering there are more countries playing Baseball than cricket being no 7 does not quite take on the same significance as say Wales who occupy the same spot on the rugby list. What is happening is a clear indication from supporters that poor performance will not be tolerated. Sport competes for the entertainment dollar and Ice Age 2 at R 30 for 2 hours is a lot more fun than being pummelled by everyone for 5 days! Anyway, this is a rugby publication, but the signs are there and yes, they may be as believable as Menzies claims in 1421 but from a SA perspective, we need to improve our local offering; the Super 14 effort, grass root and provincial rugby to retain the lifeblood i.e. sponsors and supporters.

OK, to the Super 14. Last week this column criticized the Reds for their dismal efforts again SA sides, well the match against the Sharks was a pleasing affair. Not only did the right team win but it was a good game to watch, both sides sans Monty showing willingness to run and be creative. As for the Springbok incumbent… one wonders if his time has come? Some may believe and vehemently insist that he is past his due date but that will be ignoring his obvious efforts in the last two Tri Nations campaigns. Jake White seems to get the best out of him and this is no affront of the player’s professionalism or Dick Muir, he just seems a better player under a certain coach. The same, many will recall happened with Joe van Niekerk last season.

With regards to the Stormers, their last gasp victory over the Force was met with more jubilation than supporters of ex vice-president Zuma’s supporters upon hearing that a woman wearing a knee high skirt is inviting sexual liaison… but let us not go there. The Stormers were understandably happy for beating a side that have previously gone 6 matches without even one log point… oh how the Cape outfit has dropped their standards compared to the late nineties and early noughties.

Robbie Fleck, a distinguished member of the Stormers in the heady days they vied for semi’s blame the lack of experience and the removal of 90 years or whatever of experience from the likes of Skinstad, Krige, Marinos, himself, Rossouw, Stewart, Boome et al and the leadership qualities that go with it. A good point made and again it is indicative of a sport (in SA) where administration, planning and management is not quite on par with world standards. It happens to all teams but the total breakdown as experienced, first by the Bulls, then the Sharks and now the Stormers is testament of bad succession planning and a few more factors. As for the Cats – bad bl**dy everything!

This weekend, we can look forward to a few mouth-watering contests, the repeat of last year’s final between the Tahs and Crusaders will be a highlight, the Bulls and Chiefs should be a good contest and with Andre Pretorius back the Cats may just surprise the few lost souls who were duped into buying tickets for the match at cavernous Ellis Park. What about free tickets Mr Chairman?

This writer will be spending a substantial amount of time late night in front of the TV screen following the happenings at Augusta, and the Masters Golf tournament. This is a yearly treat and highlight and hopefully SA’s best can restrain the Tiger. Go Goose, Ernie, Tim and Trevor! Enjoy!



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 Damned if you Do, Damned if you Don’t Desmond Organ
Having watched the South African cricket side concede their second series whitewash of all time, I was gutted; yet the performance of Makhaya Ntini gave me the greatest joy. He toiled almost unaided and almost brought South Africa a much deserved victory. The man is already a legend in South Africa and fast becoming one internationally. So the point of this introduction is to raise a very important issue from a rugby perspective, where have all the Makhaya Ntini’s gone.

Jake White has gambled with selections in the past and more often that not he has been vindicated by the performances of the players that he has chosen. He does however seem to be fighting a losing battle in many respects as it is not in the area of selection and unofficial quotas that the “war” will be won. Too much talent is disappearing from U19 and U21 levels. This is compounded by the fact that there are far too many professional rugby players in the country, by professional I mean players of the quality to justify this as full time employment from the age of 21 to 30 odd. We have the green squad and many other squad systems but this is not translating into success.

The Spears are not ready for the Super 14 and an early entry will do nothing to manage the stereotypes that many South Africans hang onto. The fact that several of the so-called established franchises are embarrassingly out of their depth does not justify making an even greater error with the Spears. Our coaches do not pick the players that Jake White has confidence in, on some occasions they might be justified in doing so but in many cases they are not. Dick Muir has resisted the pressure to select Solly Tybilika on a consistent basis and he ahs his reasons for doing so. The same cannot be said for Lawrence Sephaka who is clearly a cut above some of the forwards in the Cats Franchise.

The Stormers find themselves in a similar position with Hanyani Shimange; he has gone from the Sharks to the Cats to the Stormers and kept the bench warm. Playing in the same region as a Gary Botha and John Smit would make it almost impossible for him to be the no 1 choice, but playing in the Cape should be bringing him more opportunities. If the move to the Cape was a wise one then it can only be because Erasmus did not give him a fair opportunity in the Free State. Dick Muir and Erasmus are great coaching prospects and have proved this in the Super 14, so they should be cut a bit of slack when it comes to who they select.

The real challenge for South African rugby is how to become a professional organisation run by professional people and with the right number of employees. Successful businesses are not successful because of the number of employees that they have. We simply have too many pretenders to the role of professional rugby player and in the process we spend money on people who are never going to become rugby’s Makhaya Ntini. Jake White is caught between picking a representative and successful side and the Provincial coaches have no incentive to support him in this regard. Decision making at the national level is so haphazard that it is not at all surprising that Unions and coaches are largely serving their own interests. Picking the Spears to play in a tournament they are not ready for is madness and proper structures should be put into place that allow for the development of future stars.

Calling back people like Morne Du Plessis and others like him will only work if the organisation itself is committed to excellence as opposed to encouraging the behaviours that most of the leadership of the smaller Unions seem to thrive in. having the best resources employed by the bigger Unions is an indication that attempts to be professional are not happening at the headquarters of South African rugby.

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