It's amazing how things can happen in your own back yard, without you being aware of it. While it is no secret that I am a huge rugby fan, I have never paid much attention to the local club rugby scene. My rugby interest has pretty much revolved around the Super 14 and Tri-Nations tournaments, so it came as a huge surprise when I received a call from Lance Blackbeard, chairman of the Helensvale Rugby Club on the Gold Coast.
Lance informed me that the club is pretty much run by South Africans, and just recently one of their star players Brad McIntosh had come up with the idea of having a Gold Coast South African rugby team to play against a Gold Coast New Zealand rugby team on Waitangi Day. Waitangi Day is the national New Zealand day on the Gold Coast where there is a huge celebration with Kiwis of all ages attending for a Hangi, tribal dances and, of course, their national pastime, RUGBY!
The idea of establishing a Gold Cost South African rugby team is by no means a small undertaking. Everything has been done very professionally. The player's kit including match jersey, training jersey and supporters' gear has all been professionally designed and made. Having had the privilege of being on the field with the guys as they train, I can tell you that these boys are serious.
During what I regarded as the most gruesome training session I had ever witnessed, Brad stopped all the guys and barked out strict instructions to them to get serious and put in more effort. He demanded that they think about who they are representing and what they are playing for. That it is an honour, a privilege, to call oneself a Gold Coast Springbok.
SAbona, and a number of others, notably Springbok Foods and Windhoek Lager, jumped at the opportunity to sponsor the team. Doing things professionally does not come cheap, but with the help of these sponsors it looks like the Gold Coast South African rugby team initiative will be a huge success.
I have also negotiated for the team to play a curtain raiser for the Queensland Reds versus the Crusaders. What a great opportunity to launch this new team!
I believe this is only the start of the new future of rugby in Australia. Since becoming involved with the Gold Coast Springboks and publicising this through Facebook, we've been contacted by Travis Sutherland in Melbourne. Travis heads up a group of South Africans, who have established a team with the aim of doing something very similar. Naturally we're talking to them about sponsorship and helping promote this as well. Who knows, soon enough we may have some South African based clubs competing in the local club rugby scene.
As it stands, plans are being made to host a Three Nations tournament between the Gold Coast Springboks, the Gold Coast All Blacks, and the Gold Coast Wallabies!
For more information see http://goldcoastsarugby.sabona.com.au/.