Tank Lanning

All is not rotten

2016-10-20 07:39
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)

In these relatively dark times for SA rugby, it becomes quite morbid for a columnist as we tend to feast like vultures on the rotting flesh in front of us.

Sometimes glutton like with heads down, unable to see the hints of light at the end of the tunnel.

So this week it is with absolute glee that I get to haul my fetid beak out of the maggots, to instead sprout forth on three blinding spots of light.

Up front is the Gold Cup - our tournament for open clubs that will make history this weekend by having both semi-finals broadcast live on SuperSport, back-to-back, on Sunday afternoon.

The sensational Sunday arvie couch denting opportunity last happened via the 15-a-side variety of the game in the late 1990s when some Super Rugby and Currie Cup matches were played on Sundays. And who can forget the famous 1995 World Cup semi-final at Newlands between the All Blacks and England?!

Durbanville-Bellville play False Bay at 13:00, while Rustenburg Impala take on Brakpan at 15:30. SARU and the man behind this tournament, Duane Heath, deserve massive credit for the hours and hours of work they have put into making the Gold Cup the success it has become.

The tournament embraces all that is good about the amateur game - a purer and simpler version of the politically polluted razzmatazz that is the current professional game. The Kiwis call it community rugby, and that is exactly what the Gold Cup is about - likeminded people gathering to support their local heroes.

And boy, have there been some crowds! Perhaps it deserves a prominent spot on the calendar, a spot that does not see it competing with the Currie Cup, instead feeding the Super Rugby franchises? But that is a topic for another day.

The second ray of light? The call for all the Boks to play “Cheetahs rugby”, and for all their players to be called up into the Bok squad. This after they had put 50 points past a Lions side that were harassed into making errors in the face of a defence so speedy it would have made the Hurricanes proud.

Eighty minutes later, and the call from Pretoria was for the Boks to play “Bulls rugby” with all their players selected for the Bok end of year tour. This after they had put WP to the sword using an offloading game normally reserved for the higher beings that are the New Zealanders.

The light being that no longer is it about “Lions rugby”, but about a more enterprising game that does not rely solely on box kicks and one off runners - a game that both the Cheetahs and Bulls have embraced, without losing focus on the fundamentals. Something that we have also seen, to a lesser extent, from the Sharks and WP.

And while the Currie Cup is a rung or two down on the main event, we have proof that not only do we have the individual skills, but also the ability to implement that type of game. Sure we have work to do, but that is a tremendously exciting first step.

The two-day coaching indaba is my third ray of sunshine. Given that it’s difficult to imagine something positive growing in the nutrient-poor soil that is the SARU infrastructure and government grandstanding, it is easy to be cynical about this Brendan Venter-led initiative.

But at its worst, it is the start of a more collaborative approach to how we play the game in SA, and at its best it is the start of a more innovative approach to long term thinking on the game that allows for failure in the attempt to stay at the cutting edge.

Bottom down change is simpler to implement, but change forced from below via innovative thinking and persistence is more likely to succeed.

I raise my glass to all three!

Tank Lanning is a former Western Province prop and vociferous tweeter from @frontrowgrunt.

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
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