I am fascinated every day on how human beings seemingly go out of their way to derail any efforts to be successful.
It reminds me of a line in a movie, Terminator 2 to be exact, where Arnie tells young John Connor after witnessing two kids playing with guns and fighting; “It is in your nature to destroy yourself”.
Prophetic words specifically if we apply it to rugby and more specifically, South African rugby.
Internationally of course one could easily look at the IRB’s aim to turn rugby into a truly global sport. But then we witness how World Cups are awarded and the how the (so-called) processes are followed and it is quite simple to see why rugby globally is only competitive between 6 to possibly 8 teams of a total of well over 100 member nations.
In South Africa the challenges are even more significant as we have to consistently deal with government interference and how certain individuals want to deport Springbok rugby players who has been in the country for over 6 years.
But purely from a rugby administration perspective I am puzzled as to how, or why, we consistently limit ourselves from becoming a truly powerful rugby nation.
Of course most of it comes down to power struggles within rugby administration but given how South African rugby is structured and the decision making bodies are formed or managed, it is fascinating to note that some unions seemingly make decisions to the detriment of their own unions!
In 2009 the Bulls were hailed as the best provincial or club team in the world, and arguably the best Bulls team in the history of the union. Rightly so I believe.
The Bulls have basically dominated the new millennium on the local front and is still the only team from South Africa to win the Super rugby title – twice actually in 3 years.
The majority of their players are first choice Springboks too, who in itself have basically won everything they could wish to win in the past 3 to 4 years.
Their structures and depth is the envy of other unions and for now, it seems that all this will not change in the near future either.
But it could… And it has in the past…
Yesterday I read how Cheeky Watson is hoping to have something concrete from SA Rugby, or in writing with regards to the Kings and their future as a franchise, before the end of March.
Importantly the article also made mention of how elections for the new position of President of SA Rugby is coming up soon too.
Predictably the comments that followed centred around how the Kings should not expect hand-out’s, how they must fight their way to Super rugby recognition and how they will be an embarrassment to South African rugby.
‘The more things change,’ I thought…
Here we have a union like the Bulls, who is generally regarded as not only being the best in South Africa, but indeed the best provincial franchise in the world! Yet not even 8 to 10 years ago (when rugby was already a professional sport), this very same union was on the brink of total collapse.
For a period of about 3 years as we entered the new millennium the very same, all conquering Bulls could not even make the top 8 of the Currie Cup competition, behind unions like the Pumas, Boland, Griquas and the Falcons.
Their captain (Joost) slammed the coach (Heyneke Meyer) in public and through the media as being the reason the union experienced their worst season(s) in 65 years.
Players had to take pay-cuts of between 45% and 55%.
Senior players either walked out, or were not offered contracts – some of them even entertaining to join unions like the Pumas in a ‘anything but the Bulls’ type of attitude.
There were accusations of marginalising coloured and black players (a nice way of saying there were accusations of racism).
Predictably they never featured in the local Currie Cup, and hit an ultimate low when they lost 11 out of 11 matches in the Super 12 in 2002.
This under the management at the time in some way or form or capacity of Heyneke Meyer, and (now) CEO of the Bulls, Barend van Graan, who of course is still there and now local heroes.
And just look at them now.
Not even 10 years ago minnow unions like the Falcons, Boland, SWD and Pumas were real contenders for Currie Cup semi-finals, and the Bulls on the brink of disaster or total collapse. Ironically the Lions were a massive powerhouse at the time too… Today, unions like the Falcons cannot afford to pay players, Boland fighting one battle after the next, and the Bulls – well they are on the crest of a magnificent wave.
If all of this is possible, why do we continue to marginalise ourselves and each other?
I guess what I am asking is how do we measure which teams and unions are deserve certain allocations they are allowed, and which unions or teams don’t?
Why do we marginalise ourselves and each other when the margin between being on top, and being at the bottom is not that far apart at all?
Do we just allow the cycles to carry on as they have been for many decades? Or do we perhaps need to look at creating a methodology and structure to spread risk and wealth for the benefit of the game?
Will it even benefit the game?
I don’t know, but what I do know is that we are busy destroying ourselves, and we are seemingly content with it.
Maybe old Arnie is right, it is simply in our nature.