It's going to be alright...
Well, that's what I keep telling myself and what keeps me from going insane.
Barring the Sharks and the Stormers - when they feel like it - it's a pretty damn traumatic experience having to take in the SA Super 14 sides week in and week out. Certainly not for the faint-hearted!
Why do I say this, and how can I be so sure? Well, for a couple of reasons.
I spent a few fantastic days in George last weekend in order to take in the Varsity Cup festival, which saw each of the eight varsities participating in the inaugural tournament, play three games each. And it was a sheer joy to see these young guys take to the game with the gusto that should be reserved for this classic sport.
And while it was pretty frenetic, it was not all helter skelter, run from everywhere stuff. Teams such as the table topping Ikeys and second placed Maties, are very well coached, and focused on making use of the full set of new ELVs. There was an amazing amount of genuine rugby talent on display. And that is my one reason to be positive. This country really does continue to produce fantastically talented rugby players.
The fact that Free State continue to field a competitive side despite being raped of playing resources each year, the rugby on display at the schools festivals such as the ones held at Grey PE and Paarl Gym this weekend, and the results of our age group teams at international events provide further proof of our ability as a country to produce top rugby talent.
The second reason I have to feel positive about our rugby is that a Springbok team is made up of just 22 players. So while trying to compete in the Super 14 using five squads of 30 players sees us scratching even our barrel of rugby talent, one has to remember that it is only the top 22 or 30 players who make up the team that decides our rugby standing as a nation.
And given that the likes of John Smit and Victor Matfield, along with others, no doubt, who have not pulled on a Super 14 jumper this year, will be returning to the fold having realised that the grass is not always greener on the other side, that elite squad of international players will be even further bolstered.
Yes, people, even if earning that magnetic Euro, it's not always beer and skittles not to be known by anyone at all in your village, play rugby in the rain every weekend in front of 3 000 people and not be able to order anything interesting from a restaurant menu because you do not understand it! While players might take a little heat in the media for not performing every now and then, it's pretty damn enticing to be an adored Bok rugby hero in a land where the sport is more like a religion than a past time.
And our top team can compete with the best of them.
And my third and final reason to be positive is the ELVs. Well, a lack of them, to be more precise! While these laws have been allowed to remove any form of character from the game of rugby at Super 14 level, they will not be in play come the international season in a few months time. To my mind, all they have done is make every side play the same type of rugby - that being to get through a half gap and throw a 50-50 pass, with the fittest side coming out as the winner.
But come the internationals, sanity will prevail as the lineout returns, and teams scrum instead of "pick and go". Meaning that the likes of Smit, Matfield, Bakkies Botha, CJ van der Linde, Jannie du Plessis and Heinke van der Merwe, will be allowed to set up a platform from which our international class backs, lead by Fourie du Preez, will prosper.
Bring on Bok rugby!
Tank is a former WP tighthead prop and now Sport24 editor and the author of the blog, Front Row Grunt.
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