The Latin phrase annus horribilis, which translates to “horrible year”, is probably the best description for South Africa’s 2016 rugby season.
The Springboks were the main culprits, completing the year with a "record" of eight defeats in 12 Tests, the most suffered in a calendar year in history.
It gave coach Allister Coetzee a paltry 33% win-record, the worst of any Bok coach in the professional era.
However the Boks weren’t the only contributors to a bleak 2016, which started with an expanded 18-team Super Rugby competition which, quite frankly, no-one liked, or understood.
There were too many sub-standard match-ups and the lopsided manner of the draw meant not all teams were playing equally strong opposition.
Apart from the Lions, the South African teams flattered to deceive, with the Stormers lucky to finish third despite boasting a worse record than both the Highlanders and Chiefs, who, due to the complexity of the tournament format, ended up below the Cape side in the final standings.
SA Rugby is largely to blame for the current Super Rugby confusion.
Due to SA Rugby calling the shots financially at SANZAAR (as explained in a previous column), it has the bargaining rights which forced the tournament’s expansion to include the Kings.
The Lions also shot themselves in the foot when they sent a second-string team to Argentina for their final round-robin game. Had they beaten the Jaguares - who themselves flattered to deceive in their Super Rugby debut - South Africa could have witnessed a Super Rugby final at Ellis Park.
2016 also saw the introduction of the almost pointless Currie Cup “qualifying” competition, where the top six Super Rugby unions participated, knowing, despite their finishing position, that their qualification to the Premier Division was guaranteed.
The “qualifying” competition also had no sponsor, and in case you didn’t notice, Western Province emerged victorious.
Farcically, they didn't receive a trophy for their efforts, so took it upon themselves to buy their own!
That’s where Province’s good deeds for the year ended unfortunately, as news broke of financial strife which forced the union into liquidation.
The manner in which matters were “resolved” left a sour taste and there will no doubt be more courtroom battles in that regard in 2017.
The Currie Cup Premier Division was won by the Cheetahs, but the tournament lacked its previous spark with top Springboks hardly featuring.
It was welcome news to learn of boardroom discussions, although not finalised, regarding a change in format for 2017 - perhaps a strength versus strength six-team top flight competition.
More players left these shores chasing greener pastures in Europe to add to the gloom that made for a sombre 2016.
I have subsequently drawn up a wish list for 2017. Some of these wishes are unlikely to come true, but it’s still fun to mention:
- Allister Coetzee is replaced as Springbok coach. Brendan Venter and Rassie Erasmus could make for a good combination. Attempts to lure the latter back from Ireland would prove tricky.
- The man who speaks the most sense in South African rugby, Nick Mallett, somehow gets involved on a consultancy basis, whether at the national team or helping the Super Rugby franchises. Mallett needs to stay on SuperSport, he is after all the reason we stay tuned post-game, but his knowledge would be invaluable for coaches and players.
- Thelo Wakefield resigns, or is sacked, as president of WP Rugby.
- The same happens to Cheeky Watson at Eastern Province.
- Following the fiasco at WP Rugby, we start to see more privatisation of rugby unions with its presidents - and subsequently the amateur arm - having less of a say.
- The Super Rugby format will be reviewed later this year. SA Rugby should again use its bargaining power to amend the format. If they’re not going to slash the number of teams, then fewer local South African derbies and more action against the benchmark-setting Kiwi teams should be a start. Unfortunately this can only happen from 2018 onwards...
- SA Rugby decides on a strength versus strength Currie Cup system and makes the qualifying tournament more worthwhile.
- Varsity Cup organisers finally make sure all teams field players registered to their respective universities and revert back to a normal points scoring system.
- The Blitzboks were South African rugby's shining light in 2016. But this year they go one step better and win the overall World Rugby Sevens series.
- Last, but not least, a Springbok win over the All Blacks and a South African Super Rugby winner... #onecanonlyhope
Herman Mostert works at Sport24 - is a struggling golfer and enjoys tennis...
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