JJ Harmse

Cheers minnows, hello big boys

2011-09-29 11:07
Sport24 columnist JJ Harmse (File)
JJ Harmse

So Namibia have gone home already, Georgia and Romania will be leaving today and the USA finished strong against Italy. John Kirwan is looking for a job and the IRB are probably looking at ways to ensure Japan make it past the pool stages in 2019, when the Rugby World Cup will be hosted by the land of the Rising Sun.

Often one doesn't worry about the minnows at a tournament like this, especially when one reaches the big showdowns later in the tournament.

The first round of matches are always very entertaining with the minnows still full of zest, personnel and ambition, but three weeks later, all of them are broken.

It was only the USA who actually managed to deliver equally good performances in their first and last matches, both against Tier One nations and finishing strongly against Italy will certainly carry some momentum forward for the Americans.

Equally so for Canada, who will finish third in their pool should France beat Tonga on Saturday and will thus qualify for the 2015 tournament automatically.

If that happens, the Canadians will be able to start working towards 2015 in England and a decent four-year plan could see them even better when the next World Cup comes around.

There were some suggestions that four teams should be canned after the 2007 tournament, but the IRB decided against it. Talking to their chairperson, Bernard Lapasset, recently, he made it clear that the 20-team will format will remain for the foreseeable future.

It is good news, but it could be to the IRB's benefit to invite those with ideas on how to spice up the tournament, to have their say.

Suggestions of a 'plate competition' and 'plate final’ to replace the third/fourth playoff match have been mooted. The idea would be for the last team in each pool to go home after completion of the pool phase, but for the third and fourth placed teams to go into their own little competition immediately, playing a quarter-final, semi and final in their own ‘mini World Cup’.

At this phase you will see great games, as the likes of Canada, USA, Tonga and Fiji will take on teams they can really compete with on the same level. The tournament will certainly not suffer and by hosting those games in the smaller venues, it will result in sold-out stadiums.

Having attended matches in places like Rotorua and New Plymouth, I'm happy to predict that those venues would have been filled for the 'second tier' competition.

There are other suggestions as well and all deserve a hearing.

Whether the CEO of New Zealand Rugby, Steve Tew, just wanted to make a point to his IRB mates or whether he was serious about the All Blacks possibly pulling out of the 2015 event, I am not sure, but it was a bit unfair of him to do so.

There are certainly other ways and means to discuss those issues, with a coffee at the Viaduct in Auckland a perfect place to have a nice chat about future funding of the World Cup.

Then there are of course the numerous meetings the IRB big chiefs have while in New Zealand. I just felt it was the wrong time for Tew to make ‘threats’ to the IRB, particularly given the financial loss the world body was willing to take in order to bring the tournament here.

Allow me just a few words on another issue that popped up, excuse the pun, during our stay in New Zealand. It's been widely reported that Pretoria News reporter, Vata Ngobeni, was detained in Taupo for ‘fitting the profile of someone selling drugs’ and we all had a laugh about it with Vata.

Only, it is not funny. It is very, very sad and the Taupo police must really have a hard look in the mirror. They are still not prepared to name the ‘informer’ who apparently accused Vata of trying to sell some tablets in the toilet of the pub. They are still not prepared to apologise to Vata for the whole incident. They feel they have done the right thing and followed the right procedures.

If the laws in Taupo allow you to identify someone you have never seen in your life as a possible criminal and that implication leads to the other person being humiliated, I am very happy I don’t live there. Especially because Taupo is pretty much a tourism hotspot.

Because that was the reason why Vata was detained was it not? Surely it was not because he was the only black man in the bar?

Read JJ every Sunday in Rapport.

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.

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