Tank Lanning

SA rugby needs a ‘Draft Day’

2016-05-12 08:03
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)

So there I was enjoying Kevin Costner balance a gazillion balls on his biggest day as the CEO of an American Football franchise thinking that Jurie Roux’s job might actually be tougher than Allister Coetzee’s, when BAM, it hit me!

Should South African rugby not have some sort of “Draft Day”?

The movie sees Costner deciding what to do when his team acquires the number one draft pick in the upcoming NFL Draft - a massive annual event which sees the NFL teams select eligible college football players by means of a draft. The order of which is in reverse order of the previous year’s log table, allowing the last placed team to potentially staff up in order to be more competitive. 

Should they make the correct pick or not trade it of course!

The situation is hardly comparable with our structures in South Africa given the amount of NFL franchises, and perhaps more importantly, colleges, but...

What about ditching every provincial academy and institute, instead putting the money into the running of university and open clubs - which remain completely amateur - and insisting that any schoolboy player who would like to try and play rugby professionally spend at least a year playing for either a university or open club?

Yes, it’s extreme, but might it not provide a few solutions to problems we face?

The perennial question asked is what happens to the undoubtedly talented schoolboy rugby players that we produce? One of the answers is that if you are not already in the “System” then it’s bloody hard to get noticed.

And that system includes the provincial academies and institutes who continue to develop schoolboys that have been identified from as early as the provincial Under-13 weeks. That they do great work is beyond doubt - just look at the EP players selected for the Baby Boks who have come through their academy.

But it does have a flaw - what happens to the late developers?

We also have issues with provincial recruiting at schoolboy level, which is just plain wrong. In fact there is a whole lot wrong with how “Professional” school rugby has become. Forcing guys to play a year of amateur rugby at either a university or open club before they can become professional would go a long way to thwarting that.

A year spent playing amateur rugby with a few older hands might also provide some grounding seemingly lost on a few of the “I pee Eau de Cologne” brigade of today.

Each year we then have a Draft Day that would see our six Super Rugby franchises drafting their picks from the base of young players, as determined by the SA conference log standings of the previous year. How fun would that be to watch?

It would also then give the franchises something to trade. So if for example, the Kings had the first pick next year, they might choose to trade that with the Bulls given that they have their eye on a young lock that they are desperate to recruit!

No Under-19 player could go head to head with 38-year-old Frikkie who eats tractor tyres for brekki, so some sort of age group ruling would need to be implemented. You want the older guys to stay in club rugby, though, so perhaps the over 23 league play as curtain raisers and are also up for some sort of draft?

Varsity Cup has its own issues - which are not dissimilar to those faced in college football - but it has proved itself as a showcase of young talent. The Gold Cup looks set to carry on the great groundwork laid by the open clubs' Community Cup, starting a national World Cup format tournament in September this year.

Are these not the non-elitist type entities that should form the base on which our open rugby is built?

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:    sa rugby  |  tank lanning  |  rugby

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