Watching the five-part documentary ‘Chasing the Sun’ – reliving the moments of frustration, hope and redemption, culminating in another Rugby World Cup win – was a truly emotional ride for myself and, I’m sure, many South Africans.
While COVID-19 has interfered with many aspects of day to day life, it has also impacted rugby, to such an extent that Super Rugby as we know it is over and, by the sounds of it, the SANZAAR alliance is teetering on the edge.
South African is at a crossroads and I am sure nobody is more aware of that than the SARU themselves.
The general public in South Africa should always be the reason we play rugby – our teams represent each and everyone no matter who they are. While I don’t want to get political, it is important that the path forward must first and foremost be for them.
I know the Pro14 is on the radar, I know CVC Capital Partners owns 28 per cent of the Pro14, and while I am unfamiliar with exactly what that means in terms of who has what say about what, it is a concern that a South African product of our people might be sold off to foreign owners.
SA rugby and the sum of its parts needs to remain South African.
Over the past 12 months, there has been talk of maintaining the World Cup momentum, the same talk we heard in 1995 and, to a lesser extent, 2007.
The question is how?
Realistically, SARU cannot change the world, or in this case South Africa, but they can change rugby.
Coronavirus has provided a unique opportunity for a domestic rugby season, with no international rugby or cross-border franchise rugby.
We can focus solely on rugby in South Africa.
Our rugby is in a transformative state right now, socially, metaphorically and literally, and we have the opportunity to embrace that transformation. We need coaches from all walks of life – competent, astute and motivational coaches.
We need our development system to produce players from all walks of life.
There is no better opportunity than right now to forget about any overseas partnership as far as domestic rugby is concerned. By keeping our domestic rugby at home, there are no limitations in regards to transformation, every team is on equal footing, we can go nuts.
Imagine how strong our rugby can be if we use the next decade to focus internally, searching for answers, rather than trying to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?
We have eight franchises, surely it is worth exploring an eight-team premiership Currie Cup with a salary cap. Getting corporate partners to buy into a tournament will not only provide the opportunity for transformation on equal footing, in both players and coaches, but ultimately a product of high quality.
A Champions Cup should be explored. It seems New Zealand and Australia are looking at options for Super Rugby, hopefully the relationship with our SANZAAR partners are not that far gone that a Cup-style tournament isn’t possible.
As for Test rugby, we have to remain in the Rugby Championship, that shouldn’t even be debated. We are a southern hemisphere nation, our season does not align with the north – should we sell our tradition, culture and structures for the sake of a few pounds?
OK, it isn’t a few pounds, but the Pro14 is dominated by Ireland, the Welsh supporters are in discontent, the Scots have two teams as it’s all they can afford, and – let’s be honest – Italy isn’t all that big on rugby.
We are strongest together.