Do you know that EP Rural beat Border Rural
20-8, or that an EP Invitational side beat an EP Urban 22-26 yesterday?
I know this because SARU deemed it
important enough to send out a pressrelease telling the
media that the SWD and WP amateur sides had won through to the final of the
Southern Amateur Provincial Championship in Humansdorp by beating the likes of
these mighty warriors.
A WP side that would come 4th in the
pecking order after the Stormers, Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup sides, and
probably 5th after the Community Cup and Varsity Cup given the opinion of the
players and coaches I have spoken to.
Yet the WPRU were happy to enforce their
constitution and ban players from playing in the last 2 rounds of the local
club league because they could not get away from their studies or work to make
it to Humansdorp for this humdinger of a week. In effect, punishing amateur
rugby players because they chose their studies or careers ahead of a 5th choice
provincial side that should be nestling with the Dodo!
What the hell are we doing?
We are living in the past, that’s what we
are doing. In 1994, the year before the game went provincial, players were
getting around R2 000 per game in a brown envelope nestled in their match day
jersey. I know this because I was one of them. Yet unions were getting similar
gate, sponsorship and TV money to what they are getting today (relatively
speaking of course).
Massive income with no player costs. Unions
were absolutely rolling in cash! Hence the massive stadia and extravagant
spending by administrators. Glory days that perhaps laid the tracks for the
These days a single player could cost a
union 10 times more than every single player cost in those days. Yet still we
manage the game in a similar way ...
A few years ago Ireland made the call to
ditch Sevens so they could focus all their attention on the Fifteen a side
game. Not a universally popular decision, but one that had to be made in a
small country with limited player and financial resources.
Yet here we are hosting amateur representative
teams at amateur tournaments. Sending a woman’s team to come 10th at the World
Cup, and a woman’s 7’s team to no doubt perform similarly poorly at that World
Cup. And here we are putting together a second tier Currie Cup tournament that
28 people care about. All costing vast amounts of money.
Yet, despite this, both the Boks and the
Blitzbokke are ranked second in the world in their respective codes. Imagine
how good we could be if we ditched the excess baggage?
What purpose do the likes of Border, Valke,
SWD, Leopards, Boland and the Griffons serve? Apart from costing SARU more time
and money given the need for curatorship and investigations into corruption.
They are just a drain on limited resources.
Changing this, though, requires the turkeys
that are the smaller unions to vote for the Christmas lunch that is the money
from SARU and these tournaments. We simply have to find a way to change a
constitution that still speaks to an amateur era.
In closing, I am not saying we should ditch
amateur rugby. Far from that, in fact. And amateur rugby will still need to be
funded in part by the professional arm, but let’s separate the two, and do it
via the clubs.
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.
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