It’s time for a complete overhaul of our rugby system. The suits at SARU have got it coming.
While there are some astute rugby brains and businessmen on SA Rugby’s Presidents Council, for every Arsène Wenger there are two okes just happy with the meal ticket, and those are the guys who end up making the decisions that lead to undercooked Boks, a talent drain, bad coaches and, worst of all, a win ratio of 33% for 2016.
Compare the performances of the teams influenced by provincialism and politics to the largely-independent Blitzboks.
When the Blitzboks secured their second World Rugby Sevens Series crown in Paris last Sunday, it was former captain Kyle Brown’s congratulatory tweet that summed up the secret to their success.
“What an amazing effort from the entire system,” he tweeted. “World champions, well done @Blitzboks!”
Neil Powell’s Blitzboks had finished as runners up in the previous four series, the perennial bridesmaid tag looming large, but it’s easy to forget what else the Blitzboks achieved in that time.
In 2014 they won a Commonwealth Games gold medal in Glasgow and should’ve gone on to greater things at the Rio Olympics in 2016, butchered tries in the semi-final against Great Britain to be rued for a long time.
This season, the Blitzboks have established their credentials as world beaters. They’ve reached an incredible seven out of eight tournament finals, despite injuries to key players at crucial times, such as Brown, Cecil Afrika, Rosko Specman, Justin Geduld and Werner Kok.
And this after Kwagga Smith and SA’s all-time leading try-scorer, Seabelo Senatla decided to further their careers in the 15-man game.
How does a team even stay competitive, let alone keep winning, when four or five world-class players are injured? And through all of this, the team exceeded transformation targets.
It’s this “entire system” that Brown thought to congratulate first. An “entire system” run by SARU.
The difference with the Blitzboks? Quite a few. The SA Sevens set-up is run by SARU who “own” the most valuable asset – the players.
There’s no Duane Vermeulen playing Test matches undercooked because Toulon couldn’t afford to rest him once during the entire season. There’s no Allister Coetzee begging for the Currie Cup to end one week earlier so he can just get a few extra sessions with his players. There’s no Damian de Allende playing through his off-season, so his body is basically battered by the time we reach week three of Super Rugby.
Why? Because what Powell wants from his players, he gets. He’s the boss.
Add to that the stellar job done by the Sevens Academy in Stellenbosch. Marius Schoeman and Paul Delport, Powell’s former teammates, implement his ethics and tactics, which makes it’s easy to see why youngsters like Selvyn Davids, Stedman Gans, Ryan Oosthuizen and Dewald Human could slot in seamlessly in the senior setup.
It would only be fair to note that SARU tried implementing something similar with director of rugby Rassie Erasmus launching the Mobi-Unit to install the same vision and principles at every franchise and at age-group level. But the wheels came off early in 2016 with Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber’s departures to Ireland.
SARU has also tried, and so far miserably failed, to implement a central contract-ish system. But with potential 50-cap Boks like Jan Serfontein and Cobus Reinach not even committing in the first year of the new system, it’s hard to envision it working in the long run.
It’s time for a complete overhaul. Own all the professionals in the country: be the boss of their conditioning, where they play during Super Rugby, with whom they play during Super Rugby, and most importantly, get everybody on the same page as to what we are working towards.
Dawie Boonzaaier is a journalist who can quote every single line from Al Pacino’s speech in Any Given Sunday and fanboys over Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn. Follow him on twitter: @dawiboon
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