Tank Lanning

Are the playing fields level?

2013-02-07 09:14
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
  Video

SBW v Botha preview

2013-02-07 08:44

Watch Sonny Bill Williams and Francois Botha trade verbal blows.

The Cape Town Tens has come and gone - and what a sensational event the fifth edition of what is now a Cape Town institution turned out to be - so now we know the rugby season is a go, go, go.

The first round of the Varsity Cup has been played, with Pukke upsetting defending champs Tukkies, and the Community Cup - a new tournament that sees the country’s top open clubs go head to head in a four pool format - officially launched, the first fixtures taking place on February 16.

Exciting times as the spotlight gets placed on the recently neglected heart and soul of rugby - club rugby. But with the bright lights come a few red flags...

In a very good initiative, Varsity Cup have made academics a priority by demanding that at least 18 out of the 23 players in the matchday squads be full-time students that have passed at least 30% of the subjects they studied the year before. And even the non-student a players need to have passed Grade 12.

Now I know education standards are slipping, but being asked to pass just 30% of your courses, especially with only a few of them on the menu for a lot of the players, is not exactly being very demanding.

Which brings me to my next red flag - the actual courses and their entrance requirements. Some of the varsities offer degree only courses which come with tough entry requirements, more courses, and an annual pass rate a lot more substantial than just 30%, while others will offer diplomas or less which come with much lower entry requirements, fewer courses per year and just the Varsity Cup prescribed 30% pass rate.

Then throw in the age old professional bugbear - cold hard cash. While some varsities will have every single degree or diploma on offer oversubscribed, and thus not see the need to spend any marketing money on their flagship rugby side in order to attract students, others will throw a large portion of their sizeable marketing budget at the rugby club in order to attract “students”. Some varsities offer bursaries only in terms of reimbursement, while others see that as par for the course, throwing in housing, a car and more than just pocket money as the deal decider.

As such, the playing fields are by no means level, leaving the organising committee with a very big call to make in the near future. Either allow basic professional rugby economics to play it’s course, meaning the varsities with the lowest academic barriers and biggest wallets will become “Super-Varsities”, or step in and regulate matters so as to keep all 8 varsities competitive.

The Community Cup will face similar challenges, obviously without the academic issues. But there is the potential for “Super Clubs” - clubs with cash - to dominate the tournament, perhaps even at the expense of club rugby in general.

I suppose the key question is should club rugby (be it open or academic) even be professional? Perhaps this is the tier of rugby that should remain amateur, aiming to retain some of those classic rugby traditions like post match fines, teams having a beer together after matches and trying to score tries rather than stick up kicks for the wings to chase?

Or is that the sole domain of the Cape Town Tens nowadays?

Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt

Disclaimer: 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.

Read more on:    tank lanning  |  rugby
NEXT ON SPORT24X

Has rugby lost its soul?

2014-07-24 08:54

 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
7 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Live scoring

 
 
Featured Blog

Dave ask if you would like to meet your local sports heroes and stand the chance to win prizes to the value of over R40 000.

Latest blogs
Vote

We're down to four teams left in contention for the 2014 Super Rugby title. Who will be crowned champions?

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Newsletters Sign up for the Morning Glory, Super 15 and Soccer newsletters

Blogs Yes your opinion counts. Get it out there

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

Mobile Sport24 on your mobile phone - WAP, alerts, downloads, services

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

iPhone Latest Sport24 news on your iPhone

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

TV schedule Plan your couch time with our searchable sport TV guide

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

 
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.