Watching this video made me realise why rugby union is in such a mess.
Our stadiums are empty and participation in the game is dwindling. A school I am involved with in the Free State has not had a single game at under 16B level played all year because no other schools are able to field a full side!
Off the field, things are just as dire. The New Zealand rugby union announced a big financial loss this year, while on social media we have superstars who would rather tell us why Elton John and Nigel Owens are going to hell than use their platforms to grow the game.
The Twitter video pulls the entire thing back in line. It shows us what rugby can do and what it’s supposed to be about.
The mother who posted the video explains in later tweets that her daughter had been bullied to the point of depression, only to be saved by joining a rugby club and finding real friends in the game.
In the clip, she has the try-line at her mercy but passes the ball to a fellow teammate to score – a great and age-old gesture that shows maturity and respect to her mates.
You see rugby in it’s essence is about friendship, building character and above all, family.
Families do not like going to stadiums where a majority of drunken men still act as though the sport is theirs. I attended the Springboks Test against England at Ellis Park last year and pledged to never attend an international rugby match again until such time that the organisers deal with the myriad of drunken stupids shouting racial abuse.
How can I expose my own boys to this environment?
Families are also not keen on seeing kids play sport in an environment driven by ‘winning’ above all else, where the development of a child’s abilities and character take a back seat to the overall results of a team.
I will rather attend a club under-14 game, or a women’s senior B-team game, because this is where the pure soul of rugby is currently being incubated, hopefully to emerge when the professional and schools game in its current form implodes.
I urge you to do the same. Don’t spend your money buying a Spider-Man replica jersey, or paying R800 to attend a Test match. Rather go to a local club, pay the R10 entry, buy a few hot dogs, chat to people, find a favourite team and start supporting them. Help them raise funds to buy boots for the two kids who cannot afford new ones.
If your school team has become septic with raging dad’s and psycho mom’s shouting as if your son’s under-9 game is akin to the third Test against the British Lions, then sign them up to a club instead where the focus is still on player development and player enjoyment.
Learn to love the game again, because it’s a great one. Teach your kids to love the game again or the sport will soon be dead. This video reminds us why it’s time to return to the roots of what used to make rugby union awesome, and what can again make it so.
Brendon is a rugby analyst and host of the rugbycology101 course that trains young people to become data analysts for their own club and schools teams.
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