This has been the annual siren call of Professor Willie Basson, the Saru transformation and development consultant, to Saru for eight years. And still Saru persists with an archaic approach to developing and growing rugby in SA.
With the Springboks having won two, drawn two and lost two (and our coach Heyneke Meyer, regaling us during these Tests, with his one-handed “walkie-talkie-freak-out”, a condensed handheld South African version of the Haka) the character, resolve and ability to vanquish the enemy, will put Saru under enormous pressure-cooker scenarios, that will test the parent body’s ability to organise the South African rugby calendar from October 2012 to December 2020.
Who would have thought that the great and very real possibility exists of a Blue Bulls vs EP Kings promotion relegation match for the 2013 Currie Cup Premier Division, is just a mere six weeks away? That will be a match-up of note that could surprise and enthral and has the equivalent pulling power of a Test match.
Then the second real possibility and likelihood is a second promotion relegation shoot-out for Super Rugby in July 2013 between the Lions and the Southern Kings. That now brings its own set of unresolved problems and issues, like TV coverage, tournament rules the need to apply for 2013, 2014 and 2015 as well as the not insignificant vacuum of having to fill 16 televised Super Rugby games to replace those lost in Super 15 for 2013-2015.
We see and hear no attention to these critical matters from Saru which derives the bulk of its revenues from the Super Rugby broadcast deal, as these match-ups are three prequels to the 2016-2020 Super Rugby tournament and again there is little to no initiative or offering from Saru on what options it’s considered for all its 14 rugby unions.
The brouhaha that is about to erupt and especially the missing R125 million Saru lost to inept Sanzar negotiations, as well as the bungling of the admission of the sixth South African Super Rugby franchise, will no doubt become two of the flashpoints for the Saru 2013 elections in February, to usher in an administration and management that can plan ahead without creating an environment that cannibalises one union at the expense of another. Therein lies another tale that we can visit, if this interests you.
So then, this is how the 2012 promotion/relegation works, which could set the precedent for the 2013 Super Rugby promotion relegation matches in July 2013.
As from 2012 two promotion/relegation matches will be played at the end of the each season. The team with the lowest number of log points in the Currie Cup premier division, now the Bulls at nine points with four games to go, will play two promotion/relegation matches, home and away, in November, against the team, now the EP Kings, with the most number of log points in the Currie Cup first division as follows:
The Currie Cup premier division sixth placed team versus the Currie Cup first division team at the top of the log (home and away).
The first round match will be played at the venue of the team from the premier division (Loftus Versfeld) and the second round match at the venue of the team from the first division (Mandela Bay Stadium).
These matches will be played in accordance with paragraph eight of section two — log points format — of the rules of the competition.
After completion of the two Currie Cup promotion/relegation matches, the team with the most log points accumulated during these two critical matches will play in the Currie Cup premier division in the 2013 season.
That 2013 Currie Cup season, also starting in July next year, will kick off after another monster two promotion relegation matches for Super Rugby in July 2013 to determine who will play Super 15 in the 2014 Super Rugby season.
But where oh where are these tournament rules and where are the 16 replacement televised games for the Lions or any other franchise that will sit out Super Rugby from February to July in 2013, 2014 and 2015?
Any one of the 12 premiership teams in the UK, as well as the TOP 14 French teams are unavailable to play in 2013 and 2014 as their season runs from September to May and they will not release expensive players to get banged up against a South African side for the mere spectacle.
Similarly no broadcaster will look at the zero value offered by exhibition games with a Pacific Islands composite side or even Fiji, Tonga or Samoa, as advertisers don’t see a market in these micro-nations nor the broadcasters being able to syndicate this rugby inventory to broadcasters around the world.
Rugby sides like the Pumas, without their professional players plying their trade in France, the composite sides of the US Eagles and Canadian Maple Leafs, offer little options with as much excitement and value to sponsors and broadcasters as a sherbet lollipop trying to pass itself off as a London Olympics closing ceremony extravaganza. So where are these options for the six South African franchises? There are none. Saru’s lip service of “we will try to” and “will use our best endeavours to” quite simply is inadequate and don’t cut it and put our game in peril.
Now what is Saru going to do about it and what are we going to do about it?