JJ Harmse

Mother Earth impacts RWC

2011-02-24 08:59
Sport24 columnist JJ Harmse (File)
JJ Harmse

So we are getting ready for week two of Vodacom Super Rugby, week five of Varsity Shield, week four of Varsity Cup, week one of Vodacom Cup and we are halfway there in the Six Nations.

Man, how lucky can one be? Well, it seems very, if you consider what has just happened to our rugby friends in Christchurch.

Natural disasters are always hard to swallow because they are so unpredictable and normally result in a huge loss of life.

Having travelled to Christchurch on a couple of occasions in the past, it is very upsetting to see how the earthquake has affected those areas that I remember well.

It was certainly quite weird to see the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane flooded a month or so ago, but is tragic to see the beautiful cathedral in the city centre of Christchurch destroyed.

There are many South Africans who has made this lovely city their home in recent years and we hope they are all fine and in good health.

It was good to see SA Rugby and the Bulls putting out statements in solidarity with the Crusaders in particular, but NZ Rugby in general.

As Victor Matfield indicated, many of those who extended hospitality and courtesy towards the Bulls and Springboks while down there on tour might be in dire need of help and it is not a nice thought.

An equally disturbing thought will be the options the IRB have with regards to Christchurch's hosting rights during the upcoming Rugby World Cup in September and October. As things stand at the moment, the last thing one would want to do is to deal the people of Christchurch another blow while they are down.

To tell them they will lose their games while they are still trying to get people out of the rubble, might sound very cruel, but unfortunately, time is running out for all those concerned.

I am no expert on earthquakes and trembles, but you need not to be to see that there is currently something not right with Mother Earth’s stomach in the Christchurch area.

Although no one can predict there will not be another quake, I would say, there is a fair chance there will.

And as no one can guarantee no loss of life if it happens again, it will be very naive from the IRB and the organising committee to presume that nothing will or could happen and that the thousands and thousands visiting the city will be safe.

The earthquake, if it is due, will happen with or without the RWC in progress or not.

As many of you have probably started you touring plans for your trip for the New Zealand showdown, it is important for all the millions of rugby fans they are expecting to know where to go. It is as simple as that.

Luckily for the South Africans fan, they only need to travel between Auckland and Wellington to follow the Boks, but England and Australia are among those teams playing pool games down south. Can you imagine any of them being hurt or killed because of another quake?

New Zealand was marketed as a stadium of three million people. Well, it seems the south stand is quite unsafe at the moment. Only fools will venture there.

The IRB must make the call as soon as possible. It might sound cruel and heartless if they do, but not nearly as devastating as it would be if there is another quake while teams are playing.

There is of course other consideration as well. As I have mentioned, spectators need to plan trips, book hotels, motor homes and flights. All of those can lead to a massive logjam if something happens again and the IRB decides in say, two or three months that the city will not be hosting matches any more.

It is a well known fact that this tournament will lose millions of dollars and the IRB has already admitted as much when they went for cash rich England and Japan for the next two tournaments.

It is a terrible situation and one can certainly not blame the people of New Zealand for this. They have been preparing for years and years to host this tournament, but sanity must prevail. There are more than enough other venues where those matches can be played outside of Christchurch.
There will be massive logistic challenges if the games have to be moved, but not nearly as many if it is not and the earth moves again.

This tournament is close to becoming a massive obstacle to the IRB and the people of New Zealand. Clear heads and a lot of faith are needed and some painful realities will have to be faced.

Good luck to all.

Read JJ every Sunday in Rapport.

Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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