Tank Lanning

SA rugby stuck in the dark ages

2014-08-28 09:09
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
Do you know that EP Rural beat Border Rural 20-8, or that an EP Invitational side beat an EP Urban 22-26 yesterday?

No? Thought not...

I know this because SARU deemed it important enough to send out a pressrelease telling the media that the SWD and WP amateur sides had won through to the final of the Southern Amateur Provincial Championship in Humansdorp by beating the likes of these mighty warriors.

A WP side that would come 4th in the pecking order after the Stormers, Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup sides, and probably 5th after the Community Cup and Varsity Cup given the opinion of the players and coaches I have spoken to.

Yet the WPRU were happy to enforce their constitution and ban players from playing in the last 2 rounds of the local club league because they could not get away from their studies or work to make it to Humansdorp for this humdinger of a week. In effect, punishing amateur rugby players because they chose their studies or careers ahead of a 5th choice provincial side that should be nestling with the Dodo!

What the hell are we doing?

We are living in the past, that’s what we are doing. In 1994, the year before the game went provincial, players were getting around R2 000 per game in a brown envelope nestled in their match day jersey. I know this because I was one of them. Yet unions were getting similar gate, sponsorship and TV money to what they are getting today (relatively speaking of course).

Massive income with no player costs. Unions were absolutely rolling in cash! Hence the massive stadia and extravagant spending by administrators. Glory days that perhaps laid the tracks for the Gravy train?

These days a single player could cost a union 10 times more than every single player cost in those days. Yet still we manage the game in a similar way ...

A few years ago Ireland made the call to ditch Sevens so they could focus all their attention on the Fifteen a side game. Not a universally popular decision, but one that had to be made in a small country with limited player and financial resources.

Yet here we are hosting amateur representative teams at amateur tournaments. Sending a woman’s team to come 10th at the World Cup, and a woman’s 7’s team to no doubt perform similarly poorly at that World Cup. And here we are putting together a second tier Currie Cup tournament that 28 people care about. All costing vast amounts of money.

Yet, despite this, both the Boks and the Blitzbokke are ranked second in the world in their respective codes. Imagine how good we could be if we ditched the excess baggage?

What purpose do the likes of Border, Valke, SWD, Leopards, Boland and the Griffons serve? Apart from costing SARU more time and money given the need for curatorship and investigations into corruption. They are just a drain on limited resources.

Changing this, though, requires the turkeys that are the smaller unions to vote for the Christmas lunch that is the money from SARU and these tournaments. We simply have to find a way to change a constitution that still speaks to an amateur era.

In closing, I am not saying we should ditch amateur rugby. Far from that, in fact. And amateur rugby will still need to be funded in part by the professional arm, but let’s separate the two, and do it via the clubs.

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.

Disclaimer: 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.

Read more on:    tank lanning  |  rugby

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