SANZAR commit RWC suicide?
Stephen Nell and Marco Botha
Prof Tim Noakes (Gallo Images)
Cape Town – The Super 15 can be tantamount to a SANZAR suicide if players from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia are not managed carefully to enable them to perform optimally at next year’s World Cup.
“If one of South Africa, New Zealand or Australia win, it will be because they managed their players the best. If your top players play throughout the entire season, there is no way that you will win the World Cup,” respected sports scientist Prof Tim Noakes said when quizzed about the extended Super 15 tournament and its potential implications for World Cup performance.
“In that case it will open the door for countries like France, England and Argentina.”
To win next year’s Super 15 tournament, which stretches from February 18 to July 9, may require a team to play either 18 or 19 matches.
After that there is still a shortened Tri-Nations of four games for each of the Southern Hemisphere giants.
To win the World Cup will require a team to play seven Tests at the tournament.
“It adds up to 29 or 30 games, while I believe the ideal for 2011 would be 16 or 17 games. We have to find a way of bringing 29 down to 17,” said Noakes.
South Africa are expected to repeat their ploy of not sending their strongest team on tour in next year’s Tri-Nations.
Top Springboks may also be rested for two of the four group matches at the World Cup.
South Africa play Wales, Samoa, Fiji and Namibia before the quarterfinals.
Noakes has a radical suggestion for South Africa to have its players in the best possible shape for the World Cup:
“Don’t play your best players against South African teams in the Super 15. It makes a lot more sense to want to beat New Zealand and Australian teams. You have to beat your opponents if you want to be successful in the World Cup.”
However, that is unlikely to wash with provincial rugby bosses. The focal point of the Super 15 is the amount of derby games and the local passion that it is supposed to generate.
Noakes believes teams should rather focus on developing a second tier of players.
Meanwhile, former Springbok coach Jake White has expressed his concern about the huge number of local derbies for different reasons.
“Between the Currie Cup and Super 15, teams can now play one another five times in a year. From a financial point of view the derbies probably make a lot of sense. Those are the games that attract big crowds locally,” said White.
“It’s a huge game when the Bulls play the Cheetahs. But I don’t know whether the excitement and crowd attendances will be the same in the second or third year when the teams play one another five times in a year.”
White believes the format also militates against earlier discussions about bringing back long Springbok tours.
“As a country we said some time ago that we should bring back tours partly because we play the same people every year. But now we are doing exactly that with our local competitions – we are playing even more against the same people,” said White.
“You may play Richie McCaw six times between the Tri-Nations and Super rugby tournament. I may be old-fashioned, but don’t believe one should overdo something like that.
“With long international tours you can play against different opponents every year, expose young players to the Springbok culture without handing out Bok colours, and overall it’s just good for rugby.”