Tank Lanning

Ditch the dead wood

2015-02-12 09:50
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
The Springbok Women’s Sevens team finished the recent Brazil Sevens World Series in last place following their five losses which saw them concede 152 points and score just 49.

The losses against Fiji, China, England and Canada were bad enough, but taking 40 against Russia on the first day was especially embarrassing.

This after their XV-a-side counterparts registered just the single victory in their World Cup campaign in August last year. A result that saw them come 10th in tournament – the same result they recorded in the 2010 World Cup.

“But despite their brave efforts … “ is the phrase most often used by the poor SARU communication team tasked with putting a positive spin on this debacle in the post-match press releases. Why? Because it would be incredibly politically incorrect to do anything else.

Given the need to accommodate so many creeds and colours in a country with a morally chequered past when it comes to dealing with fellow humans, our Rainbow Nation constitution is now deemed to be one of the more progressive in the world. The Politically Correctness of it, though, now sees us treading on eggshells when we should be calling a spade a spade.

Minister of sport Fikile Mbalula was happy to call Bafana Bafana a “Bunch of losers” after they crashed out of AFCON last year, yet complete crickets on the car crash in slow motion that is woman’s rugby in South Africa?

Well, I am prepared to take that slap or drink in the face when I next walk into a bar. Why? Because like in my column on amateur representative teams last year, this is another example of the dead wood we are carrying in SA rugby. And given our lack of resources, we simply cannot afford to carry it. It’s time to make some tough calls and get truly professional.

Ireland, for example, have chosen not to dabble with a men’s sevens side so they can focus all their limited resources on the 15 a side team. A tough call no doubt, but a call made in order to be the best they can in on endeavour rather be average at many.

In South Africa we are blessed with incredible player talent and can thus afford to have the Blitzbokke strut their stuff on the Sevens series. But even top contracted Sevens players earn less than some run of the mill 15 a side players. That is just a reality of the relative pulling power of the codes.

Yet we seem happy to waste seriously limited financial resources (especially given that we try and play in a global market with a third world currency in free fall) on both a Woman's 7's and 15's side! 

How many of the avalanche of players leaving our shores, especially the younger ones like CJ Stander, Jacques du Plessis and Steven Kitshoff, could we have kept in SA with the money wasted on this seemingly hopeless cause? 

In closing, even if just to temper the severity of the guaranteed slap, I am by no means of the imagination suggesting the ditching of all woman’s rugby. It needs to be driven from the bottom up though, with provincial unions investing in amateur club structures should they see fit. Then amateur provincial structures if deemed worthy by the unions, and when it looks like enough energy, talent and conditioning has been unearthed via amateur arms (as that shows a true passion and will), then think about a national side.

It simply cannot be something that SARU wastes time, money and energy on. They have bigger fish to fry.

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.

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