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Wednesday, February 01, 2006


General Discussion: Morocco murders once powerful Springbok Rugby team 75 - 14

Impossible? I don’t think so. This could well be the reality we wake up to one day if our rugby follows the trend we are currently experiencing. Why do I say this? Because I have seen it happens once before.

South African rugby is part of our culture, it is something a lot of South Africans grew up with, it brings people together, it brings cultures together, hell, its a religion!

Every single year thousands of supporters in South Africa spend thousands of rands on rugby tickets, satellite television, rugby gear, flags, caps, and not to mention therapy.

The Springboks improved in 2 years under Jake White, from number 6 in the world, to number 2. They managed to secure a Tri-Nations title in 2004 and only lost out on bonus points in 2005. In 2004 they were honoured with the team of the year, the player of the year as well as the coach of the year IRB awards. Both our under 19 and under 21 national teams won their respective World Cups. So it will be fair to ask why I believe if we don’t see changes in South African rugby soon, the once respected and powerful Springboks, will be nothing more than a 3rd rate team in world rugby.

The answer is simple. We have the players and the talent in the country to be the best in the world. We have some pretty decent coaches. We have a wealth of knowledge in South Africa in the form of ex-players and old Springbok legends – which is the only reason we have survived in the professional era. Unfortunately, unless we change the way our game is managed, all of this, will be lost to the game and lost to Springbok rugby.

People usually criticize me when I compare the sorry state of affairs in Namibian rugby to South Africa, highlighting facts such as a superior tradition, culture, history, etc. as reasons why I cannot compare the two.

Well, for those who don’t know this, Namibia once had all this too. In as recent as 15 years ago, they lost by 4 and 5 point margins against nations like Wales and France, and even beating Ireland twice in 1991. Admittedly, their rugby history or traditions are not as long or as proud as South Africa’s, but as our favourite Kiwi poster loves to points out all the time, the past counts for nothing, it is what you do today that will secure your success tomorrow.

To say Namibian rugby is in shambles is an understatement of the highest degree. It is shocking what is happening to a sport once proudly supported by all in the country.

The rugby players have still not been paid for their services during the Rugby World Cup of 2003. Clubs have been kicked out of the national league following disputes with the Namibian Rugby Union.

A local garden centre, who supplied grass for the turf of their national stadium, yes their national stadium, has gone and physically lifted the turf and loaded it on trucks to take back because of outstanding amounts the national body still owed them!!!

A local sponsor pulled out on the eve of a Seven’s tournament Namibia was supposed to take part in, because the president of the Namibian Rugby Union went on radio lashing out at local companies for not supporting the union because they wanted to keep the game ‘white’, labeling them as racists.

In fact, no company wants to get involved with the union in any way. Thousands of Namibian Dollars simply went ‘missing’, and although an investigation has been launched, and damning reports released of those in charge of the game, they remain in power playing the race card and blaming the minority ‘old guard’ for the state of rugby.

It is no surprise then that players, of all races, refuse to represent their country at the highest level of the game. Can we even imagine that? A talented youngster being selected for his national team simply says, no thank you, they would rather forego this ‘honour’ and take their chances in an already saturated South African market. Because as we all know, once you pull the national jersey of your country over your shoulders, you can never represent another country under IRB ruling.

Now tell me, is it so far fetched to consider the same could happen to the sport in South Africa? Let’s look at the factors that contributed to the state Namibian rugby finds itself in.

The Players – Exodus

Already we are seeing hundreds of South African players playing the game in Europe and Australasia. We have South Africans in the national squads of England, Australia, France, USA and Italy to name a few, and also a mention of a South African player (eligable to play for our country still) in line to pull an All Black shirt over his shoulders in the not too distant future.

Player do this for various reasons, some consider it a better career move with better opportunities, some do it for the money, some do it to pick up valuable experience but end up staying in those countries, and some sight the structures in South African rugby as their reasons.

Whatever the reason is, I think it is becoming very clear that in the professional age, players assess their situations as to where they believe they can build a successful career first, and worry about ‘the jersey’ later. We have to understand, this is what these guys do for a living, this is their lifeblood, so pride – the thing every supporter that has followed the game for more than 15 years regard as priority – takes a backseat for the players, and I agree with them.

If this means they have to give up the chance to represent their country one day, then so be it.

The Administrators – Window Dressing & Shifting Blame

The Namibian Rugby Union, after 15 years of independence, still plays the race card and use ‘racism’ or the ‘old guard’ as an excuse for their incompetence. If we think back to the 2003 World Cup, we will remember that the team could not even afford to kit the players out in official blazers and ties – shocking.

There are situations of money going missing, investigations being swept under the carpet, sponsors ridiculed and just plain general chaos.

Now compare this to South Africa. We have commissions after commissions of enquiries being launched to investigate corruption, fraud, theft, bad corporate governance, and the list goes on.

Union presidents are threatening court action against their former unions, after they are unanimously voted out because of their incompetence or mismanagement.

The SARU president is implicated in bad corporate governance allegations and shady dealings, his own board members deny having any knowledge off. Sponsors displaying unhappiness because of allegations of negotiations with competitive companies and the advertising of such companies under the SARU banner at games our national team is involved in.

Allegations and reports of funds being mismanaged, for the purpose of satisfying personal interests, by the current president himself where his own company is implicated. Reports of catering bills amounting to over R100, 000.00.

Players being overplayed and seemingly the least of their concerns when negotiating expanded competitions such as the Super 14 and Tri-Nations in an already overcrowded schedule of international games.

Public mudslinging matches between the national and provincial coaches regarding the welfare of players in the name of national interest.

A sub-standard domestic competition where the game is not developed at all, but rather a case of the big unions milking and raping their smaller cousins which has no benefit in the long run for anybody.

Controversial ‘quota’ systems that is not only confusing, but a national embarrassment if you consider we have not moved forward one bit in over 10 years of democracy in making the game representative at national level. A system abused by administrators in unions by simply window dressing and not developing the games at all.

The Future – Change

The point has been brought up that because of the thousands of passionate fans something like this will not happen in South Africa – the game is bigger than the players and administrators.

Well I can assure every single one of you, when it comes to passion and a love for the game, Namibia and its people is nothing short of fanatical about the sport, just not in their own country or for their own national team.

I have gone out to pubs in Namibia to enjoy Super 12 and Currie Cup matches, and the enthusiasm for the domestic competition in South Africa is amazing.

During the semi-final and final games of the Currie Cup, I was amazed to see how many cars were draped in Blue Bull flags, not to mention the hordes of supporters flocking to their local pubs dressed up in their respective teams’ jerseys – hell it felt like I was back in Pretoria!.

For the final and every Springbok game, you have to book a table for you and your friends, otherwise you can forget about seeing the game whilst enjoying a beer at the local watering hole.

Before and after the game, you just have to sit and listen to the locals to understand how much they love this game. You hear stories about the time that the Namibian team visited Newlands in the 80’s and beat the awesome WP side of the 1980’s and how proud they were of their team. Or the times they hosted big international teams and gave them a run for their money and sometimes caused an upset or two, and of course they cannot tell you enough of how many Namibian greats went on to represent the Springboks, or that they know the barber in Swakopmund who cut Percy Montgomery’s hair as a child!

If you ask them what went wrong, they simply stare into space, as if they are struggling to find the answer themselves. Then someone mumbles that Morocco put 49 points against ‘that’ team a couple of weeks ago – and almost as to wipe that train of thought from their memories, they order another beer and continue to tell Jake White what he did wrong and debate the strength and weaknesses of South African rugby.

These guys will tell you everything you need to know about any player in South Africa playing in the big league, but if you want to find out who Namibia is playing next, buy the local paper on a Thursday and look for an article on the back page the size of a ‘classifieds’ add to see who they will be playing next.

It really saddens me to witness what is happening in Namibian rugby, and unless the IRB and South Africa come to the party soon to assist this once proud rugby country with funding, clinics, etc., the game will surely become extinct.

In my view, we are not a Namibia yet, but if certain aspects of our game are not sorted out soon, Morocco might just hand the once proud Springboks, their arses on a plate.
Very nice piece PA,really enjoyed it.
But i thought you were the hairdresser that styles Percy's hair!

I now manage BVR's personal finances...

Great article. What people doesn't realise is that the line between success and failure is minute. It doesn't take much doing to see SA rugby in the same situation.
Ok, it's like that. my own WP/Stormers buddies making fun of me! sniff sniff...  
Great Post.  
The same thing happened to Zimbabawe and amazingly Zambia!

In the fities and sixties the Zambians had tests against the All Blacks and other touring teams and actually gave them a run for their money.

Rhodesia was always a powerhouse of SA rugby and produced stars like Ray Mordt and Salty Durandt.

Look where they are now.

Every now and then we get a Bobby girl and a Tonderai, but nothing beyond that playing for Zimbabawe.

After independence I recall Wales and Ireland squeaking wins against Namibia with players like Gerhard Mans and Andre Stoop.

Before that Currie Cup sides feared the trip to Windhoek. The powerful 80's Lions especially had a penchant for falling in Windhoek!

So, this is the issue:

We could very well crash to that level if we're not clever.
Amen PA.

Het amper 'n knop in my keel gekry oor jou Namibië stories. Is werklik jammer dinge loop nou so en kan alles beaam.

There still is a lot of rugby talent here, one of the guys playing with me is a flank, 1,90m tall, 90kg and can bench 165kgs easily. He's only 23 and has a bright future ahead of him.

Thanks man, and we can only hope things get better in SA. However much we deny it here, Nam is probably beyond salvage...

Great article.

Speakng of Andre Stoop - didn't they let him out of jail on occasion so that he could play for Namibia?

Also don't forget the great Jan Ellis

23 becnching 165,faaaaark.  
Wouldn't it be great if the Spears go and sign up one or two of the Namibian and Kenyan players after playing them in the next month or so. At least the Spears are contributing to rugby in Namibia. If I am correct, they are playing them twice in Namibia next month. Tony, I hope you are reading this!!!!!!!  
Sorry, was not supposed to post anonymously.
Wouldn't it be great if the Spears go and sign up one or two of the Namibian and Kenyan players after playing them in the next month or so. At least the Spears are contributing to rugby in Namibia. If I am correct, they are playing them twice in Namibia next month. Tony, I hope you are reading this!!!!!!!
PA, Namboer
Is it really that bad? Would be very sad. I toured SWA with a rugby team in my youth and the memory that remains is the vast distances we had to cover to games and the absence of grass on rock hard fields, still had a great time.
Nice posting, Firefly.

Jip, the legendary Ryk van Schoor (still alive, as is Tjol Lategan) was also from Rhodesia.
And Sias Swart (SWA) played wing for the Boks in '55 if I'm not mistaken.
Bygone days...

unfortunately it is.

sad thing is people still love the game here - schoolboy rugby is really strong, club rugby corrupt and like i mentioned, guys are giving up the opportunity to represent their country to avoid a kees lensing problem.

i have seen guys walking around in stormers, bulls, hell even sharks jerseys, not to mention bok jerseys.


namibia lost by 4 and 6 point margins against the frenchies and welsh in the 90's, and beat ireland twice in 1991!!!

i wish you guys could see how passionate the people here are about the game of rugby - but for the wrong country i am afraid.
Almost like you Pissant, you traitor! Just kidding!

It is sad to see these things happen, I truly hope that the fans will stop it from happening, but you never know how quick it happens. Before you know it, you're in deep shit. Hopefully Hoskins is the guy to save the shambles we have and old Van Rooyen runs away into obscurity. Never to be seen alive again. But the way SA Rugby works, we'll see him drive of with a lekker payoff.
Great article.

Something begins to worry me.

None of the black presidents voted out so far have accepted it and gone with grace.

Is this the way it will be from now on?

Is Van Rooyen going to continue to occupy his office despite being voted out constitutionally? Will he start to play the race card, even though it is the Stofile's who want him out the most? And a black president opposing him?
i have a feeling that we will never get rid of this as well anon - the political games being played in our rugby administration will kill us one day.  
Rugby is the most successful sport in SA today precisely because the so-called 'conservatives' have held on the longest.

The overly rapid 'transformation' of the admin structures of other sports is what killed them. There was no due process, no ensuring a smooth and coherent transfer of power and too much opportunity for opportunistic raiders to get involved.

What would Van Rooyen have got away with if it hadn't been for Markgraaf putting himself in the firing line? At much personal cost to himself in terms of a media witch hunt campaign orchestrated against him.

Even this website has got it wrong. You can hail transformation every day, you can change the leadership en masse but if you don't ensure the quality and qualifications of the replacements you will simply kill the sport. What price transformation then?

If anything rugby's transformation has been more organic precisely because it has been slower. Van Rooyen managed to post the biggest loss in SARU history but the sport is still very financially sound, unlike every other major sport in SA, who are all deep in the red and floundering.

One day people may actually thank the 'conservatives' for not folding wholesale. They may just have ensured the long term survival of the sport.
Mr Green

That is an interresting take on things. Something I whole heartedly agree with. Allthough not on everything. I agree that we musn't just throw away knowledge, but transformation is needed. It's a difficult situation to handle and also an emotional one. People victimised and left behind in the past, needs to get oppertunities, but like you rightfully say, it should not happen in a way that will transfer to a loss.

My solution is to employ the black guys/girls, but to keep the white guys in a consulting role. So that you won't lose that critical knowledge. Sadly, no matter what we whities say, we are not in a situation where black guys and white guys can be employed or chosen for the Springboks in a equal way and on merit only. SARVU, the government and sports teams have wasted to musch valuable time in implementing this and I hope that they wake up and do it properly. Not by firing whities left right and center, but by starting at grass roots level. I mean, how many sports camps, not the one day get a t shirt type, but continuous camps are there in the rural areas and the poor areas. Not that much, cos our government and sporting bodies are to obsessed with only sending people where they themself can benefit by a guy paying them. So it's an attitude of, sorry poor guys, maybe when you win the lotto.
Just to comment on a few points made here, not necessarily related:

People always seem to say that SA "has the talent to be the best in the world", but do we really have more talent than the others?

My impression when watching our junior teams playing the likes of NZ is that we win through determination and guts. If it's down to raw strength, pace, skill and athleticism, then we are quite far behind the Kiwis.

The question is can we do anything about it? Yes of course. My impression is that, even in the top rugby schools, that our players are poorly schooled in the basics, either of skills, strength or conditioning. So the key is to fix things at source, sending in the best coaches to deal with the youth. Clearly this is something that requires government to do its bit. If it is really concerned about transformation, then instead of getting hung up about quotas, it should be ploughing resources into making sure poor young black kids have better facilities and coaching across a range of sports.

As for Namibia, their problems are not unlike those of the South Pacific Islands. The ruling a few years ago by the IRB that forces players to play for only one country has been counterproductive. It should be tweaked to allow players who have played for a tier 1 country, to later turn out for a tier 2 country. There are countless cases of former All Blacks with Samoan or Tongan backgrounds getting close to 30 but out of the picture for getting to play for the ABs again. They should be allowed to switch allegiance.

Lastly, I remember Tvl narrowly winning a CC final in Windhoek. The locals riled them so much I remember John Robbie tossing the ball against one of the local forwards in frustration and then getting penalised for his trouble.
il postino.

i agree, talented youngsters should be spotted and put in clinics to condition and train them.

nick mallet mentioned programs like this in CPT and it is a great way forward.

the reality of this is yet to be seen though.

i also agree on the IRB ruling - this could be seen as 'development' for 2nd and 3rd tier nations.

once a kees finishes up in europe for instance, he can come back to namibia and either play or help the local youngsters. guys in namibia, as i am sure in other countries too, needs hero's, namibia has none.
Il Postino,

Agree on both counts.

Regarding the first issue - absolutely, that's how it should have been approached from the start of unification 14 odd years ago.

One thing though - the SA government is all talk and no show. They won't provide a cent.

On the second issue - it's the only way to go, discarded or retired Tier 1 players should be allowed to go back to play for developing countries.

I'd even go as far as to say that each developing country can have any 4 players, regardless of their birth, citizenship or country previously played for.

So, if Gary Teichmann had fancied 2 years playing for Namibia, he could have been one of their 'four'.
Sorry that was a semi-final in 87. I believe the effort in that game caused them to fall off drastically in the second half of the final in the rain at Ellis Park.  
Exactly PA. Imagine the next Jan Ellis having a glittering career for the Boks, then at the age of 31 switching to play for Namibia in an important WC qualifier. That would get the turnstiles moving in Windhoek.  
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