It is certainly not good to hear that one of our biggest supporters of rugby, Vodacom, is planning to tone down their sponsorship.
JJ Harmse – Sport24
Sure, one can understand their reasons, as new regulatory obligations will significantly affect their income stream, and they are looking at other ways to stay involved in the game.
We have become used to having Vodacom around and one has to give them credit for the way they have gone about their business in doing so.
I can still recall the classic ad on TV of the young springbok lamb trying to get to its feet as part of their Vodacom Cup campaign, and I have bumped into many a Vodacom Supporters Group in the various places I have covered rugby.
With the news that they might also tone down their involvement with the teams they sponsor, I was wondering how those teams might react …
The Vodacom Bulls played great rugby in Hamilton, scored four tries and made history by beating the Chiefs in the Waikato stadium for the first time. Message to the sponsor? Think again!
The Vodacom Stormers did their name justice by blowing away the Blues in Auckland in a match of controlled rugby, mixed with spurts of flair. Message to the sponsor? Think again!
The Vodacom Cheetahs played the Brumbies in Canberra. They tackled poorly, could not hold on to the ball and to top it all, Kabamba Floors was banned for a spear tackle, which he followed up with some very poor language to the complaining Brumbies players. Message to the sponsors? Don’t think again!
I often wonder about our professional players and their ability to see the bigger picture. Sure, they are employed to play the game, first and foremost, but they must be aware of the bigger scheme of things.
I am not suggesting that the performance by the Bulls and Stormers last week was influenced by the news of Vodacom’s intentions at all, but it is hard to believe that they would be totally ignorant on the matter.
This is why I found the Cheetahs performance so disappointing. They certainly did nothing to try and remind the sponsor of why they got involved with them in the first place.
I know they have had a rotten run with injury as well, but they underperformed again. Surely it is time for the administrators to take stock and look what they need to do to be more successful at Super Rugby level. A change of coach could be a good start!
It will be interesting to see how SA Rugby handles the Vodacom issue. It is safe to presume that things will change with the Super15 coming into play and probable a Four Nations tournament starting in 2012. That is the top level though.
Will, for example, the Vodacom Cup survive and if so, in what format? The future and purpose of that competition has been debated on this forum before, with no clear answer.
The success of the Varsity Cup not only showed the insatiable appetite of the rugby public out there, but in a way proved that the Vodacom Cup has lost its support base.
One of the reasons why the Varsity Cup has flourished is because the Vodacom Cup was becoming stale. The addition of the Pampas XV and Namibia could point the way forward, and it might not be a bad idea to invite more African countries to play.
A second tier competition than runs concurrently with Super 15 including the likes of Kenya, Zimbabwe and Zambia playing against our smaller unions could be a win-win situation. Of course, more Argentinean teams could also be added, but that would be expensive.
Any new competition would certainly be welcomed, but the easiest option for SA Rugby would be to just find a new sponsor for the Vodacom Cup and continue with that competition.
SARU also need to find a solution to the Southern Kings problem, and that will be taking up a lot of their time. Simplest, then, would be to just continue with what they have. The Vodacom Cup is a well run competition and we have seen in the past how our administrators have battled to find the right format for the Currie Cup.
The bottom line is that a second tier competition is crucial to the development of the game. It might have a new name and hopefully a tweaked format, but we cannot allow for that type of competition to fall away.
It is way too important too many of the smaller unions, who in turn, are the feeders to the big five unions. Or big three, given that the Lions and Cheetahs have again failed to justify that billing.