We talk to former Springbok Andre Snyman on the growing hype in the United States about the upcoming rugby tournament- (Professional Rugby Organization) PRO Rugby USA. The new project in the USA. The sleeping giant as it has been described has been primed to finally wake up now. The sedatives are wearing off as the arrival of John Mitchell and the launch of the first professional league is in full swing. Andre offers us his views on the impact of John Mitchell so far, what the league format will be like and what king of value is expected from the new arrivals.
BC – Tell us about the format and how you feel it will go?
AS – There will be a round robin system. The five teams will play each other twice and then the top two teams will play a final. The champion will then be decided. The players are categorized in 3 contract classes – Tier 1 and Tier 2 are full time professionals. Tier 3 will be players that only receive match fees.
BC – What is your role as technical adviser or consultant for the Pro-league about?
AS – I will be bringing my expertise as a former professional player and assisting the coaches in all matters with emphasis on defence. My consultant role is purely that of guidance and knowledge exchange. I remain the Head Coach of the Glendale Raptors men’s programme.
BC – Which marquee players signed by the various sides. Who do you feel will leave the biggest and most lasting impression on the USA’S growth?
AS – I think they will all leave an impression and what they will most likely do is inspire and display the professional conduct they have learnt in their careers. With the newly turned professional players here in the USA, they will be training around professionals and will be made aware of the requirements, commitments and sacrifices professional players make.
BC – Do you feel the lack of a team in some states will impact how the game will grow?
AS – I think expansion will take time. I think the organizers want to start small and then grow with time. A lot of money is being poured in and the aim at the moment is to lure the public to the game. In some of the surrounding states; players will be able to move to the states with a team and have a go at the Pro Rugby league. A slow process with a big picture.
BC – Is it possible for young players from South Africa to come to the US and play for the club side you coach? Players that have not been able to crack it at the top level?
AS – Players will be able to come to teams like the Glendale Raptors – who will eventually become a feeder club for the Denver Pro team. We are open to players wanting to come and play in the USA. However the Raptors remain amateur and any player wanting to come and play for the Raptors, in the hopes of being chosen for the Denver Pro Team, will need to fund their own travel to the USA and visas costs.
BC – John Mitchell is in charge of the US Eagles now, what has been your view on the appointment?
AS – John Mitchell brings a lot of international coaching experience which has been lacking in the USA Eagles coaching staff previously. With immediate changes of talent identification and elite processes being put in place there will be a far reaching effect for the Eagles. John has the right no nonsense mind-set and is busy putting structures into place that will develop and expose the talent which is available in the USA. He is surrounding himself with an adequate coaching staff who understand and know the USA rugby systems and culture. I believe it won’t be long until we see the USA Eagles rise in the IRB world rankings.
BC – Thanks Andre!
AS – Thanks for your time Benedict and your interest in the rugby here in the USA.