Tank Lanning

Time to be bold with Boland

2016-07-28 08:10
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)

"When Maties and Western Province rugby are strong, then Springbok rugby is strong."

So said the legendary Doc Danie Craven - a man not shy to speak his mind, and thus a man not shy to court controversy.

Craven played for the Boks (1931-1938), coached the Boks (1946-1949), and is the longest serving president of the body governing rugby in South Africa (SARB from 1956 to 1992, and SARFU from 1992 to his death in 1993). Perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea, but just that record affords him “legendary” status.

And nowhere is that status better entrenched than in Stellenbosch, or perhaps more exactly Stellenbosch University, better known as Maties - in all probability derived from the Afrikaans word for tomatoes ("Tamaties"), based on the maroon coloured jerseys in which they play.

The Maties play at the Danie Craven Stadium, house the Danie Craven Rugby Museum and are welcomed on to the Coetzenburg sports complex by a bronze sculpture of Craven and his faithful dog Bliksem which was commissioned by the university.

Craven attended Stellenbosch as a student from 1929 to 1935 (during which time he played for both Maties and Western Province) and then coached them (and the Boks) from 1949 to 1956. He loved Maties, Western Province and Springbok rugby.

And so it came to be that the Maties play in the Western Province club leagues, and hence the Stellenbosch and Paarl schools playing under the auspices of Western Province.

This despite Stellenbosch and Paarl being much closer to Wellington (the heartbeat of Boland Rugby) than Cape Town where Western Province play their rugby.

To be fair, Boland Rugby only came to fruition in 1939, and as the new kids on the block, they were never going to win that battle with a bulldozer like Craven.

Boland also already have a fair amount on their plate - they have the most clubs (219) and players (18 000) in SA, and are the second largest province in terms of square kilometres (200 000 m²), servicing the likes of Bredasdorp and Hermanus in the South up to the likes Bitterfontein and Van Rhynsdorp in the North.

But what happens now that Boland have qualified for the Premier division of the Currie Cup via 11 wins out of 14 to end third on the log behind only Western Province and Griquas?

What happens now that Boland seem to be emerging from a truly catastrophic period that saw the union basically dismantled by nepotism and corruption of the highest order?

Alan Zondagh, a man I was privileged to play under while representing the WP “B” side, was appointed director of rugby in January, with the Rugby Performance Centre, a state of the art high performance facility that was started by Zondagh in 2005, now serving as their primary training headquarters. And this has completely rejuvenated the union.

If the Eastern Cape is the hotbed of black talent in SA, could Boland not lay claim to being the hotbed of so called coloured talent in SA, and thus justifiably challenge for that sixth Super Rugby franchise that comes with a wad of TV cash?

Instead of forcing that mantle upon a union, who are now in complete disarray, perhaps grant it to a union that has earned it?

That Boland have been forced to “team up” with the Bulls is ridiculous. If working together, the Cape region could easily sustain two thriving Super Rugby franchises.

Perhaps we would then see less poaching of the WP schoolboys by the Bulls and Lions, forcing them to develop their own players? Those eight Paarl Boys High students selected for the SA Schools side could remain living with mum and dad, or enjoy being in a digs in Stellenbosch, while playing Super Rugby for Boland.

A call to have Maties, Paul Roos and the Paarl schools feed into Boland would surely slap a largely lethargic WPRU - who have it easy given the incredibly enthusiastic public - into action, forcing them to think a little more innovatively!  

Perhaps when the class of 2050 are reading up on current SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux on Wikipedia, it will include the quote "When Maties and Boland rugby are strong, then Springbok rugby is strong"?

Tank Lanning is a former Western Province prop and vociferous tweeter from @frontrowgrunt.

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.

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