Rugby will become a global mega-sport


Ten days in the Philippines and Hong Kong has reinforced my opinion that Sevens becoming an Olympic sport will transform the game of rugby into a mega-sport.

Murray Mexted, The Roar

Sevens and Tens are really an entertainment product akin to Twenty/20 and one-day Cricket.

I spent the day at the Basin Reserve the other days watching an outstanding South African cricket side dominate in New Zealand. The Basin is one of those classic grounds derived from the English ‘village green’ concept.

I went with my family, put the rug on the grass bank, lay there and experienced a delightful but relaxed Test match atmosphere.

Test cricket remains exactly what it was twenty years ago: Test cricket. It will never pull the crowds that the shortened version does because it appeals to true lovers of the game, whereas fast and furious one-day cricket draws people who want to be entertained and to enjoy this peculiar sport.

I use the word peculiar because for cricket’s new market, it is a sport that is difficult to understand. It takes several days to complete a match where more than often there is no result.

Sevens and Tens rugby is all about speed and technique. There is nowhere to hide on the Sevens field.

The number one quality is speed, but speed is exposed if you do not have the back-up of quality skills and technique.

There is no doubt that Asian teams and teams from other emerging rugby markets will be able to compete more effectively at Sevens or Tens before XVs.

We had an interesting approach at IRANZ recently from Jamaica. The Jamaican politician I met with wanted us to put together a strategic plan for the four-year development of a world-class Sevens team.

Yes, that is correct. The politician’s opinion was that Jamaica has the fastest runners in the world. As rugby requires outside speed, and they possess and develop super athletes, why could they not be developed into a world-class rugby 7’s team to challenge for Olympic Gold?

I can’t help but agree.

The mouth waters with the challenge of identifying fifty or sixty super athletes at 15 or 16 years of age and working with them over a four year period.

I see rugby Sevens and Tens as a means of developing better and higher quality rugby players and referees (the Hong Kong Sevens exposed a much celebrated referee for not understanding the breakdown laws). It will make the game better, and without doubt, will change the pecking order of this great sport within a short(ish) period of time.

The question, of course, is how long is shortish?

In my view, not long at all.

It is time for Australia and New Zealand, to a lesser degree, to stop splitting their talent pool with similar sports or going forward they won’t compete.

Question: where is Rugby League and Australian Rules played outside Australia?

Facebook Comments


  1. It is like T20 and 5 day tests.

    The one is a fast, adrenaline, and the quick fix for junkies.

    Much like our current “upcomiong” generations.

    The have instant food (take away is 2 mins down road), instant gratification, (TV, DVD rentals, Internet, porn sites, computer games,….. whatever}.

    Instant pshycolocists, fkn ruk en pluks…???, tetracicline, avd’s, steroids, fkn every drug for every condition,….. enven rohypnol, to aid the fkn wiepies inhaving sex once a year and have a semblance of natural progression, appart from the vaalies colonising the kak winter weather.

    It is the age of instant gratification. Values and all that kak is just that.

    But, I shall allways be a lover of the pure thing, not just the blow job.

  2. Reply to Cosa die BLOUBOK @ 7:40 pm:

    O ja, hulle weet fokkol van seks, net bloujops. Dis die enigste bloue wat jy net so elke tweede, derde keer wil sien.
    Die dames wat ouer is, is nog heel pikant.

    Reply to Boertjie @ 7:45 pm:

    Dis net die munisifokenmaliteit en die fkn ontvanger wat my daar kontak. Ons kan nie ‘n bosoorlog wen nie, nou kruip ons maar weg in die fkn concrete jungle!

  3. Reply to Morné @ 7:21 pm:

    I disagree.

    Instead of having one format dominate you will have fans of union follow Sevens and 15’s. 15’s will benefit from Olympic growth.

    Same as test cricket benefitted from the development of T20.

    And 15’s will remain the strength and basis of the game while 7’s will always be the instamatic game.

    You are talking about somehow an amalgamation of two different markets and one cannibalising the other…

    This is not cricket…

    You are trying to supplant the cricketing format onto rugby when what you should be doing is looking at soccer which as a time limit and players game is far closer to rugby than what cricket is. ODI and T20 have NEVER replaced test cricket or become the driver of the sport. Test cricket is STILL regarded as the ultimate test.

    BUT let us look at soccer.

    This is like saying that 6 aside soccer which is played on a 5 minute a side basis on a quarter pitch, indoor soccer or beach soccer which has a massive following in countries with a rich summer playing heritage like Brazil YET

    None will or has even threatened to supplant 11’s…

    Under 23 soccer has never threatened to replace the FIFA version even though Under 23 is the Olympic version.

    Olympic tennis has never come close to being a threat to the ATP or WTA

    You forget that as an Olympic sport rugby will be played every seven years…

    It is childishly naive to think that somehow T20 cricket and Sevens rugby share something in common aside from being shorter versions of the original game…

  4. Reply to Cosa die BLOUBOK @ 7:40 pm: well said and so perfectly described.

    The issue is change. Test cricket is on the wayout and those that still love it are possible from another era.

    We live in the instant gratification world driven by the marketing of the individual. I, me, me now now.
    Many Gen Y dont have manners to create relationships. Its simply give it to me now consumerism and the cheapest price. When things go wrong, which they do, thats when nurtured relastionships count.

    Reply to Boertjie @ 7:45 pm:

  5. Reply to Kevin_rack @ 4:17 am:


    The recent test match which was drawn between SA and NZ had the stadium fully packed by spectators on the Sunday.

    This is what pundits are failing to understand.

    When it comes to rugby we love all kinds of rugby. We love Sevens, we love Tens, we love XV’s – them all.

    Soccer I go to support my wife’s company’s pathetic inept indoor girls team every Saturday morning… but watching that has not, as far as I have ever noticed resulted in fans leaving “normal” 11’s. In fact what I have seen is that the Afrikaans girls have become MORE interested in the 11’s game.

    The comparison between rugby and cricket is wrong.

    You should rather compare it with what happened to global soccer with the introduction f the quick fixes like 6’s and indoor and beach…

    It has created a BIGGER interest in the large form of the game. The IRB can, like the soccer guys, just use Sevens’ exposure at the Olympics as a lever to create more interest in the 15’s code.

    I foresee that THIS rather than the contended cricket model (test cricket is NOT on the way out… every tour is a tour to play tests and shove in some T20 and ODI’s to make cash) is the way rugby will go.

  6. Reply to DavidS @ 10:24 am:

    But go and watch the Sunday coverage.

    At lunch the stadium was full.

    Same happens in SA and Aus

    Stadium is full on Saturday and Sunday but only in the middle session.

    In places like Pakistan and India and Sri Lanka though the stadium can be full for the whole five days… those countries are the three biggest contributors to world cricket.. you see we’re still thinking eurocentrically about cricket… when it is no longer a Eurocentric game. Stop looking to New Zealand, England and Australia as cricket… look at India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

    To the folks in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka T20 is just an ADDITIONAL way to make money from cricket… not a replacement for test cricket.

    In England the test matches are far better attended than ODI and T20 matches as well and they’re probably the least Eurocentric of the European nations playing cricket.

  7. Reply to DavidS @ 10:29 am:

    PS: you can’t seriously call that a stadium where NZ played SA!? How many does it take? 400?

    It is like saying RCI’s spectators attendance in the last game was 5 times the capacity! there is seating for about 30 people and we had at least 150 watching :mrgreen:

  8. Reply to JT_BOKBEFOK! @ 10:34 am:

    and this is the problem with test cricket – only a select few play test cricket and if we are not careful we might end up with only 10 or so countries playing 15’s rugby in the future.

    At the moment only 10 or so bother playing because the rest do not have a hope in hell getting anywhere close to the top tier nations!

  9. Uhmmmm . . .

    There’s one big difference though:

    In short:
    T20 and 50 overs is still cricket, although
    bastardised rules apply in some instances.

    Sevens has a mere resemblance to rugby – no
    real scrums, line outs etc.
    Actually it’s jut about only the ball that
    is the same shape.

  10. Reply to JT_BOKBEFOK! @ 10:39 am:

    Multi day cricket is STILL regarded as the pinnacle of cricket.

    Second issue

    the same players who play T20 still play the other codes too.

    I stand by what I said

    DO NOT use cricket as the measuring tool.

    Cricket and rugby ARE NOT THE SAME.

    Over a hundred countries play 15’s rugby.

    Your “top countries” remark similarly applies to soccer

    Come the last 8 at SWC you can always name at least five of those usual gang


    Then occasionally you have the upstarts like Holland, Uruguay, Chile, Portugal, Spain, FRance who have an occasional good side.

    Then first round exiters… who are just honoured to be there.

    The same in African football

    Cote Ivoire
    South Africa

    Then the rest to make up numbers

    That has not meant that “the rest” have just given up… they keep playing and keep trying…

    By your argument basketball will never achieve anything… yet it is one of the fastest growing team sports worldwide despite just being played professionally in two countries initially.

    None of your arguments and those of Morne have changed my mind.

    Stop looking at cricket eurocentrically too.

    It is NOW an Asian sport NOT a WASP one…

    I repeat

    Cricket is NOT the sport you should be using

    Rather look at soccer.

  11. Reply to DavidS @ 12:26 am:


    T20 and 50 over games are the ones that commercially drive the sport of cricket (which includes test cricket). This is not currently the case in rugby – the XV man game still drives rugby union.

    What I am saying, and what I gathered Mexted also said, is that Sevens will become the commercial driving force of rugby union worldwide and when this happens, the traditional 2nd/3rd tier countries will become stronger (even in the XV man code) – just look at Bangladesh recently in cricket as an example.

    I don’t think we should be afraid of this happening – as Mexted eludes to, this could well be the thing that actually saves the XV man game of union in a world of professional sport where money is king!

  12. I honestly can’t see Sevens driving
    the sport financially for many years
    to come.
    Maybe in the smaller rugby countries.

  13. Reply to DavidS @ 7:26 pm:

    What part of CRICKET IS THE WRONG EXAMPLE do you and JT not understand?

    The part where you Allude to the fact that there is nothing to learn from what happened in cricket.

    The IRB (as it has done) will publicly boast about the brilliant return in profit from the RWC in the XV man code.

    That happens every 4 years only.

    We know Super Rugby is not in a good place. We know the domestic league (Currie Cup) is not in a good place and unions all over are living on the breadline if not facing bankruptcy.

    The XV man code is not generating a commercially viable solution currently – so unless they fix that (global season, less Super Rugby, etc) that code is not going to get any better.

    You need a league, or code, to sustain the game inbetween the 4-year ultimate prize RWC cycle – Sevens is going to be that vehicle very, very soon.

    But thats just my opinion.

    Anycase, 12 hours sleep in 56 hours, I will be back tomorrow.

  14. There has never been a test cricket world cup from which to generate profits for the ICC – there is one in soccer

    There is no comparable super rugby type tournament in cricket – there are several in football

    Cricket domestic leagues are tiny and poorly attended – the same cannot be said for rugby and soccer

    Cricket’s multi day code was never in any financial trouble. The initial professional changeover in 1976 came about as a result of the Packer revolution and he financed several teams in a tournament in Australia in what format again? Oh yes… multiple day cricket.

    Football’s professional domestic and even regional leagues like UEFA are in deep trouble financially too and clubs like Marseilles and even some high profile A list British and European clubs have folded. That is business. Rugby’s problem is NOT code related but in the failure of its amateur structures to fully adopt to the professional era. You yourself have ALLUDED to this fact. To attribute financial issues in the XV code to a lack of popularity is dishonest… if anything its is the result of a failure to embrace professionalism.

    So in every sense you have mentioned cricket is irrelevant as an analogous structure to look at as an example for where rugby is headed.

    I repeat

    Look at soccer.

  15. Reply to Morné @ 7:43 pm:

    12 out of 56? Criminal!

    BTW Saru has declared R24 million profit.
    Not too bad for the XV code.

    As for the SS15: It will still take a few
    seasons for that bubble to burst and some
    sanity to return.
    Can’t wait.

  16. Reply to DavidS @ 9:19 pm:

    Cricket domestic leagues are tiny and poorly attended – the same cannot be said for rugby and soccer
    Well . . . Chiefs and Pirates maybe, the
    rest play to mainly empty stadiums.
    In CT Santos and Ajax struggle to get 4,000
    into the CT stadium’s space for 56,000.

    As for Vodacom Cup: WP last year played in
    front of 300 – yes, 300 – at Newlands.
    Boland rub their hands if they get 3000 for
    a home game.

    As for domestic cricket: Yes, they struggle
    to get 100 paying spectators for the 3 day

    I remember Newlands being full for the
    traditional WP/Transvaal clashes in the
    days of Barlow and Rice.

  17. Reply to Morné @ 7:43 pm:

    The growth in popularity of 7s is great, but it is still puny compared to rugby.

    At the Las Vegas tournament they claim 65K total spectators. Times 9 rounds and you have about 600K annually for the 7s circuit.

    Compared to rugby.
    SR attendance is about 150K every weekend for 16 weeks.
    During the June test window minimum 100K every weekend.
    3N, 30K-60K
    Top14 in France.
    Premiership in England.
    Heineken cup games.
    6N: 150K – minimum.
    November tests: 150K

    Add it all up and probably the 15-man code attracts an average of 100K attendees, at top level games, every weekend of the year. That’s over 5m annually.

    As for the Olympics, I’m not so sure 7s is going to draw much attention beyond the countries where rugby is already big. It is crowded with minor sports vying for attention and my perception is of an event in decline. In the USA people seem to be paying less and less attention every 4 years. The corruption, scandals and reports of past host cities, struggling with debts and white elephant facilities are not helping either.