South Africa and Springbok rugby has experienced a truly amazing 2007 that took a lot of people by surprise, especially our friends in New Zealand.
World Cup Champions
Super 14 Winners - the Bulls - plus both teams in the final from SA
SA Under 19s - 2nd in World Championships
World Sevens series - 4th • IRB Nations Cup - won by the Emerging Boks
IRB Player of the year - Byran Habana
Rugby News the official rugby magazine for New Zealand judged the following:
Player of the year - Fourie du Preez
Coach of the Year - Jake White
Top Individual display of the year - Victor Matfield ( RWC Final )
Newcomer of the year - Francois Steyn
On the local front the young and talented Cheetahs pipped another young squad, the Lions.
If one considers that any of the following - Habana, Pieterse, Du Preez, Matfield, Montgomery, Burger, Smith and Smit could possibly qualify for a World 15, something is happening with Bok rugby. Add to that a wonderful group of exciting younger players coming through such as Spies, Pienaar, Steyn, Murray, Barret, Kankowski. If Pierre Spies remains healthy, he has the potential to be one the best rugby players ever to come out of South Africa. The possibility of another World Cup win in the All Blacks' own backyard is very real. Imagine the Bokke and the All Blacks in the final in Auckland and being there to witness the clash of the rugby titans. But the Springboks and rugby worldwide is at a major crossroad.
Why might you ask, after I've painted such a rosy picture, do I still forsee a gloomy future for Rugby. Let me outline my thoughts and suggested solutions -the IRB needs to become innovative, embrace professionalism entirely and get away from the old school system. The new French head coach could be the catalyst the game needs especially with France becoming a financial power house.
Local political interference and Europe
If the dreaded quota system is implemented on a larger scale it could result in an exodus of players to Europe. There is yet to emerge a genuine black superstar such as Ntini in cricket - all the non whites who have made an impact have been coloureds.
The solution is for the Super 14 and Europe to become an open rugby market a bit like the British Premier League.
South African players could then be allowed to play in Australia and New Zealand and still be entitled to play for their national team or to play for their new countries after a certain time period.
The Fijians, Samoans and Tongans all had very impressive World Cups, but could improve their rugby quality and fitness levels and New Zealand would be stopped from poaching all the best islanders for themselves. Furthermore, the inclusion of Argentinian and Japanese players might attract some players from Europe especially some of the exciting French players. The first signs of professionalism affecting Sanzar is 40 New Zealanders off to play rugby in Europe, including Durban-born Rawlinson.
Make the game more attractive
Rugby is becoming boring, dominated by rules that favour the kicking game and pedantic referees. In my opinion there are three critical areas that must be addressed:
1. The breakdown - must encourage more turnovers as eighty percent of tries are scored on counter attack. It's very difficult to score from first phase with defences becoming so strong.
2. Collapsed scrums - are creating a very bad image for the game and is not helping in selling the game to newcomers.
3. The dreaded kick down the middle - I'd like to see any kick from in ones own half put across the try line, result in a scrum or a tap kick from the kick position - keep the ball in the field of play.
Two rules from the Stellenbosch rules that worked very well were a skew throw at line out time resulting in a tap instead of another scrum! And maul being allowed to be taken
down - how else do you stop it? The game is getting very boring to watch! There needs to be less international rugby - the players won't last and the supporters become over saturated. A possible solution could be holding the World Cup every 2 years as this event is very popular.
The “game played in heaven” needs to adapt and change or face dire consequences especially in the southern hemisphere.
In conclusion some interesting thoughts and predictions
Dick Muir is easily the best coach in SA and should be elected next Bok coach
Sharks to win the Super 14 - the acquisition of Freddie Michalak a masterstroke
The race for the Six was decided by 2 injury time tries scored by South Africans - Roland de Marigny playing for Italy and the try which decided the championship, scored by none other than a classic boertjie, Elvis Vermeulen in the French colours.
Next time - the Super 14 report and the Road to Auckland
WHO IS HUGUENOT HOTTENTOT
HH is your classic rugby tragic from first captain at school to using the game in army to escape the normal rigours onto university to take the the best games ever - inter varsities! HH is a very experienced rugby coach and became good friends with Jake White. HH worked for Stuik publishing as national marketing and sales for SA Rugby Magazine and during this time he was very involved with the 1995 World Cup. HH has excellent knowledge of the game played in heaven but is concerned on the direction it is heading. We need to make the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand the best ever for the survival of the great game.