“What is the difference between this and
the old Club Champs?” asked a Tweet on Monday before Despatch beat College
Rovers to become the inaugural Community Cup champions at Outeniqua Park.
And to be honest, the product on display at
the Easter finals in George is very similar the old Club Champs. What is
massively different, though, is how the teams got there, with the 4 pools of 5
team tournament giving to open clubs what the Varsity Cup has given to
And this is a level in the SA rugby pyramid
that needs to remain in place, but was in desperate need of some resuscitation.
The Community Cup, together with some other initiatives from SARU, will provide
The big debate now, though, is whether club
rugby should be amateur or professional, with several people suggesting to me
that it just simply has to “Go pro”.
How, I ask, with tears in my baby blue
The sparse crowds in George, along with the
decision to only televise the latter part of the tournament, speak to the fact
that professional club rugby in South Africa is completely unsustainable, and
in fact, a non starter. If the Lions RFU main issue is staving of bankruptcy,
how do you expect Evergreens in George or Pretoria Police to function as
But this does not make it any less
important a cog in the rugby pyramid …
One of the “Cape Crusaders” main gripes is
that there is an impression that so called “Coloured clubs” are ignored while
privileged white players are looked after in academies. Hence Allister Coetzee’s
comment yesterday defending their position, saying: “We’re the only (union)
using club players in our Vodacom Cup side”.
The Community Cup, together with another
top initiative from SARU, ClubWise – a post matric 5 day course and text book
that aims to improve the administration at all clubs in the country, will improve
this layer of rugby, thus enabling the provinces to call on club players in the
It will give those players who miss out on
the initial nets at school another crack at getting into professional rugby,
but much more importantly, help sustain one of the life bloods of this country
– good old fashioned amateur rugby.
Very few players can actually make a living
from the game, but that leg of the game is now firmly established, perhaps,
though, at the expense of the amateur game, which no longer knows what it
should be. With the waters being further muddied by the Varsity and Community
But for those who cannot make a living from
rugby, the game should not be only a run around with chubbies who like a beer
instead of an orange at half time. It remains a brilliant way to stay fit, play
a great sport at a more than decent level which tests both your skills and
decision making, make amazing friends for life, and have a local watering hole
filled with likeminded people who provide a purpose for the greater community
in that area.
And it takes money for even that to happen.
More money than most clubs and varsities have at their disposal right now. So
the money generated by the Community and Varsity Cups, together with money set
aside by the profession arm of the provincial union for club rugby, needs to go
into sustaining the structures that keep club rugby alive, not into the players
Sure the 1st XV might get a few hundred
bucks a month to cover their costs, but what the young players get is another
crack at being spotted by a union, and what the older players get is a well
organised club who play a good level of rugby.
Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt …
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