A new low

May 9, 2011
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On Friday the rugby romantic in me was awakened after a long slumber, only to be given a strong sedative a couple of hours later.

The necessary evil which is professionalism has all but killed the romance associate with the game of union.  The days when blood was spilled on the field only to be washed away with a couple of beers with the transgressors afterwards, is all but a memory.

The days when a team was a brotherhood, and friends were made that would last a lifetime, a rarity.

And the days when the jersey meant more than the paycheque you would receive at the end of the month, lost forever.

It is not often that we get reminded about these kind of days in rugby, but Friday night’s Vodacom Cup semi-final was one of these occasions.

The Pampas XV from Argentina hosted the Sharks XV in their South African adopted home of Potchefstroom in what was for a Vodacom Cup match, a thrilling encounter.

Many forget that these men are the second string outfit from Argentina, a country in which rugby is still very much an amateur sport.  With their top boys earning top dollar in Europe, the team that we see in the Vodacom Cup is at best a collection the best club rugby players whom I would bet my house on, all still have day-time jobs back home.

Not only have they progressed to the final of the Vodacom Cup, a professional competition in South Africa, they have not lost a game in the process.

The passion and pride you see in these guys are obvious every time they score a try and after every game they win, and although it might sound unpatriotic, I for one wish that their fairytale season has a happy ending when they play the Blue Bulls in the final.

After they demolished the Sharks XV, I sat wondering how tough this must be for them?  They sit for months in a country thousands of kilometres from home, most of whom are possibly on tour for the first time let alone first time visitors to South Africa, playing against professional teams and professional players who compared to what they would be used to, have the best structures and coaching available to them not forgetting earning top dollar for their efforts.

This was amplified when not even an hour later, I sat through one of the most shocking displays of Super rugby I have witnessed in a long time.

As much as the Cheetahs have turned their season around and gave their fans something to feel proud about, the depth of chaos the Lions have fallen to is shocking.

For weeks now I had to listen to comments about the Lions where the lack of quality players are continually highlighted as the biggest reason for their continued failure.  What utter rubbish.

There is a case to be made when you are outclassed by a better team on the pitch, and the Lions might not even have a handful of Springboks in their ranks, but a quick glance at the team shows me they have enough seasoned professional players with a number of Currie Cup and Super rugby seasons behind them to give a far better account of themselves than the rubbish they dish up for their fans at the moment.

It is not a case of losing, but how you lose or how you continue to lose because of the same reasons week in and week out.

Millions have been invested into the union, top coaches appointed, and still nothing has changed.

What we do see is a lot of finger-pointing and excuses, and I can just imagine the chaos that must exist in team and management meetings at this union.

Money has changed a lot of things in rugby, but one thing that will never change is having pride in what you do, and the team you play for.

There is nothing wrong with losing to a better team, but giving up, and losing respect and pride for the jersey you are wearing and what and who that represents, is unforgiveable.

The rugby romantic in me might have joined Rip van Winkle again for a long slumber, but at least the Pampas have shown there will always be some things money can never buy.

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20 Comments

  1. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    May 9th, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Good article…

    But I would not bet my house on these guys getting a ‘rugby holiday’ with some compensation on top of their hunger for the game…

    I would also not discount many of them being eligible for greater things whether that be RSA or Aus or the NH comps solely due to performing well in the VC…

    The sooner the Lions move their grounds to a better area the better… the negative psyche that comes from having to drive through/past JHB frequently is probably immeasurable for starters… then the ‘owners’ money enters the equation…

  2. avatar onerb says:
    May 9th, 2011 at 10:58 am

    I wish the bulls win. Sorry morne, but my year will be ruined if the bulls don’t at least secure 1 trophy. VC seems the only likely one.

  3. avatar KietieCat says:
    May 9th, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Reply to bryce_in_oz @ 10:58 am:

    I agree to an extent. You cannot blame the stadium or surroundings for what was offered up as rugby from the Lions. I am not trying to take anything away from the Cheetahs, but the Lions were woeful (to put it mildly).

    There wasn’t even an effort to try and play catch up (after letting in what can only be described as soft tries early on). The try the Cheetahs scored from a kick off is a case in point. They ran the ball back 80 meters + to score that try and not 1 of the Cheetah players were tackled to the ground.

    I am VERY disappointed to say the least of this excuse for a rugby team. NOTHING they have done in the past 10 weeks offer up an explanation as to what John Mitchell has done. If anything they seem to be going backwards and not progressing as one would have thought. I am not saying it is John’s fault alone – but it cannot be the surroundings. There seems to be a culture of “I will do what I have to in order to get a paycheck” from some of these players.

    It is disgusting.

    :noshake:

  4. avatar JT says:
    May 9th, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Reply to KietieCat @ 11:31 am:

    How do you turn it around? Another coach? new players? Will Butch make a difference? Poor guy walking into a disorganized bunch with no apararent plan :shake:

  5. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    May 9th, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Reply to KietieCat @ 11:31 am:

    Yep mate… but that’s a small piece of the pie of what is going wrong there… it simply ain’t the quality of coach, staff and players… Lions have dished out some awesome players in the same time they have been gobsh!te… it’s far deeper…

  6. avatar Boertjie says:
    May 9th, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Don’t despair – Duiwel’s “100 kg of solid shit” is on his way to join the Lions on what can only turn out to be a nightmare tour.
    I feel for the guy, I really do, even is he’s paid a fortune.

  7. avatar Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes says:
    May 10th, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    The GLRU should just disband. They occupy space and use resources that may find better use elsewhere.

    If Gumede buy out the Kings and move the players and coach down to PE, it will solve two problems at once.

  8. avatar Boertjie says:
    May 10th, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Reply to Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes @ 12:17 pm:

    Brilliant thought.
    And they get out of Joburg.
    Used to be a mine dump, now it’s just a dump.

  9. avatar the cheetahs are pumas! says:
    May 10th, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Great Arty Morne,

    I had the same discussion on the same night with my mates. How tough must it be to be away from home for so long and still perform and stay focussed?

    Maybe they are not married men with kids so they are having the time of their lives? Or maybe this “we miss mammas cooking” is just something SA teams conjured up when they lost? When we win we seem to always enjoy the tours?

    Love their approach. Hard yet creative.

    On Lions – we have discussed this many times. Two very different cultures exist. One mainly middle class and afrikaans with great rugby tradition, the other mainly upper class and english (and black) with great rugby tradition.

    If JHB had 2 teams in top flight, both will do better than Lions currently.

    Yes if the teams wins then suddenly everyone is a fan, but in tough times there are no takers.

    How many players for example in a city like JHB grow up with their dads cheering the Lions? I have on many occasions watched games in bars there and is convinced there is more sharks and stormers fans in that city – not to mention bulls.

    so you get selected for the lions as a 20 year old because you moved to Jozi aged 16 and now study at UJ. Great.

    Too bad no-one in your family is mega excited as they are all Sharks fans?

    This is an oversimplification of a complex issue but relevant nonetheless.

    Most Grey kids practically grow up with everything Cheetah around them. They share the same small city and mostly the same training facilities etc Hence some not moving straight after school. Hell the props even scrum with Cheetahs for many sessions! Lions dont have this connect, so its much more unlikely for players from JHB to have that desire for the red and white jersey.

    At least 70% of cheetah success is as a direct result of the fact that the players grow up as cheetah supporters (hence a player like strauss coming back etc). The lions simply do not have this.

  10. avatar Boertjie says:
    May 10th, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Reply to the cheetahs are pumas! @ 4:03 pm:

    If there’s no rugby culture, is there any other culture?
    :soek:

  11. avatar the cheetahs are pumas! says:
    May 10th, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    Reply to Boertjie @ 4:19 pm:

    hehe no there are two rugby cultures, thats my point. Make a team for each and both can dominate SA rugby.

    you should be able to go from monument to Uj to Lions in the same structure.

    soutie should go from jeppe to wits to new team.

    Or at least embrace a cosmo approach like sharks have done.

  12. avatar DavidS the ashamed Lion says:
    May 10th, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Reply to the cheetahs are pumas! @ 4:03 pm:

    You’re talking utter crap.

    I wish you would think before you sew shit like that about a city you know nothing about.

  13. avatar Boertjie says:
    May 10th, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    Reply to DavidS the ashamed Lion @ 5:26 pm:

    It has a SA Breweries Museum.
    What else?
    :pot:

  14. avatar DavidS the ashamed Lion says:
    May 10th, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    Reply to Boertjie @ 5:41 pm:

    Meer geld as wat julle Kaapse armgatte in julle lewens nog ooit gesien het….

    Jy weet

    Die tipe wat ons gebruik om die hele Clifton en Hout Baai as ONS vakansie huise te koop…

    Tosser

    Drie hoogste inkomste en vinnigste ontwikkelende plekke in Afrika

    1. Sandton
    2. Centurion
    3. Oos Rand

    Gaan naai damma julleself

  15. avatar the cheetahs are pumas! says:
    May 10th, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    Reply to DavidS the ashamed Lion @ 7:58 pm:

    David you spend so much time defending SA rugby’s indefensible stoic-ness that you now sound like Julius Malema. You cannot reason anymore.

    I lived in JHB for a good 5 years and spend 3 days a week there currently. I also played rugby there.

    Your team is kak. Whats your reason why?

  16. avatar Boertjie says:
    May 10th, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    Reply to DavidS the ashamed Lion @ 7:58 pm:

    Wys net hoe vlak julle bliksems is: Geld is alles.
    En dan het julle die vermetelheid om van kultuur te praat.

    But then it helps to make CT the best run city – using YOUR money to make it possible.
    Rates and tax from five holiday homes in Clifton pays for all the stolen electricity in a sqatter camp and to keep our roads pothole-free.

    :evil:

  17. avatar DavidS the ashamed Lion says:
    May 10th, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    Reply to Boertjie @ 8:42 pm:

    Yup en sonder ons geld was julle Dar es Salaam….

    Moet maar wakker word hoor

    Kultuur is nie ‘n kasteel, ‘n berg en ‘n paar derde rangse wyn plase nie…

  18. avatar Morné says:
    May 10th, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    Reply to Boertjie @ 8:42 pm:

    They haven’t figured it out yet…

    Shhht…

    Let them believe they are the center of existence!

  19. avatar Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes says:
    May 11th, 2011 at 3:10 am

    Shieldsie is speaking a lot of sense for a change. :applause: The Ebersons are great. The world is upside down. What’s going on?

    Culture is what people do. Thus, all places with people have culture but not all cultures are equal.

  20. avatar JT_Stormers says:
    May 11th, 2011 at 8:46 am

    MTN Lions touring squad is: J. Adriaanse, K. Buys, P. Cilliers, D. Des Fountain, D. De Villiers, B. Francis, C. Grobbelaar, A. Hollenbach, B. James, JC Janse van Rensburg,E. Jantjies, R. Kockott, D. La Grange, B. Maku, L. Mapoe, E. Marutlulle, D. Minnie, M. Rhodes, J. Strauss, J. Taute, F. Van der Merwe, W. Van Heerden, D. Van Rensburg, J. Vermaak, W. Whiteley

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