Taking the bull by its horns

    2017-05-07 11:00

    Bantwini Matika

    Johannesburg - Since Sanzar announced that 18 Super Rugby teams would be reduced to 15 next season, and that SA Rugby (two) and the Australian Rugby Union (one) must cull sides, the South African media took it as a foregone conclusion that the Kings and Cheetahs would go.

    This was done without proper investigation and interrogation, which did not surprise me – that’s how lazy our media sometimes is. Without digging for more and finding different opinions, they oversimplified a complicated matter.

    I believe that this is a golden opportunity for SA Rugby to re-examine and revamp what I consider to be a racist rugby landscape.

    Overall contracting

    Super Rugby rights are owned and belong to SA Rugby and not the franchises, to whom they are allocated by the governing body.

    If SA Rugby has accepted Sanzar’s decision, the franchise contracts become null and void.

    If we agree with that, we have to re-imagine the allocation of the four remaining franchises across the Republic.

    The allocation of these four franchises should move away from historical apartheid rugby structures and look into the future.

    SA Rugby must be bold and take on the overall contracting of Super Rugby players, and then allocate them to all four franchises in an equitable and balanced manner to ensure that the teams are competitive and financially viable.

    After they have been contracted, we can look into how we can allocate the franchises across the country in line with SA Rugby’s strategic transformation plan, which comes with the following motto: “delivering rugby’s future”.

    Rugby equity

    Given SA Rugby’s blueprint, the players contracted by it would have to be allocated as follows to be in line with the vision:

    . Franchise A: Combine the Bulls and the Lions

    . Franchise B: Combine Border and Eastern Province

    . Franchise C: The Western Cape

    . Franchise D: KwaZulu-Natal

    The preceding options will ensure that rugby equity and rugby development are maximised.

    Rugby equity is about fairness and is concerned with ensuring that opportunities in the sport exist for everybody, regardless of race and gender.

    Unfortunately, SA Rugby, the provincial unions, the universities and their sponsors do not respect that, and have no regard for equity and redress in rugby.

    Rugby development is creating pathways for an individual’s progress in rugby, from the learning of early foundation skills in school through to the achievement of the highest levels of excellence in the sport.

    Not emotional point

    Township and rural schools, and clubs and universities are vehicles for black (African and Coloured) players to exhibit their talent.

    Unfortunately, SA Rugby has no meaningful or effective programme in those areas, and sponsors are only interested in white schools and universities.

    There is no way that the Eastern Cape, whose number of clubs put together and compared with the Lions and Bulls are no match whatsoever, can be excluded.

    And this is not an emotional point.

    The majority rugby population in the country is black and the Eastern Cape is home to black rugby – black African rugby in particular.

    The Eastern Cape has the best school system to sustain the franchise in future and many unions outside the province recruit talent from school level to boost their future performance chances.

    SA Rugby has drawn up the following criteria on which it will decide who will be culled and who will be retained:

    . Financial and economic sustainability;

    . Sustainable support base;

    . Team performance; and

    . Stadium and facilities.

    The criteria set out are not worth interrogating because no franchise ticks all the boxes. SA Rugby should allocate the franchises to the four strategic regions with the most growth potential and align them with its strategic transformation plan.

    As a society in transition, rugby must be persuaded to contribute to the transformation agenda of our country and promote social cohesion. Franchise allocation is one tool that can be used to achieve this.

    Matika is the EP Kings’ deputy president and chair of the Rugby Transformation Coalition

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