In search of utopia

Keo, in his News24 column, writes that as long as there are lies in SA rugby, there should always be questions asked.

At a recent speaking engagement I was asked what I would interpret as personal rugby utopia in South Africa. To write about a successful Springbok team and a successful administration is what I said.

By success I don’t mean a Springbok team that wins every Test or an administration that wins every battle. The success story would be of a team that was well coached, well selected and played to its ability. As far as the administration goes, to be able to write about an operational administration who are judged on professionalism and their ability to do their job.

Utopia, within the context of South African rugby, has not arrived, but I believe it will someday be a possibility if questions continue to be asked and the status quo continues to be questioned. No matter how monotonous the questioning may seem or how boring it may appear, change will never be fashioned without persistence in questioning the injustices of the sport.

Transparency is a buzzword thrown around in our rugby, just as it is in many other businesses in this country. But it means nothing when selective transparency is on offer.

The South African rugby supporter expects – and is entitled – to transparency from the national selectors, coaching staff and governing body administration. The rugby media owes it to the public to put these questions across in an attempt to get an answer, that if not necessarily popular, at least offers some sort of explanation.

Too many supporters – and I make this statement based on comments on my website – merely accept the status quo because the highlighting of incompetence or injustice bores them, to quote a popular line.

Then these people pay R350 to attend a Test match and leave frustrated and disillusioned.

Their frustration is obvious. They want to protest, but don’t know how. The alternative then is to look the other way and avoid further anger. Being reminded of injustices, be it selection or otherwise, aggravates them. Many of them ask what realistically can they do in protest other than stay away from the Test matches?

I don’t have the answer to what they can do, but I do know the rugby media has a responsibility to these people to challenge the comments and actions of those who continuously fluff their lines and whose actions are harmful to the sport.

Rugby in this country needs integrity, from the players, coaches and administration. And it most desperately needs the media to be at the forefront of this ongoing battle for integrity.

Provincial bias among the media is as big a stumbling block as incompetent administration or prejudiced selections. You read an English newspaper and an Afrikaans one and you get two vastly different opinions. You read a paper up north and one down south and the discrepancies are as great.

You watch SuperSport and you get what the national coach wants scripted.

Where is the integrity in that? Where is the acknowledgement to the rugby supporter that every coach, selector and administrator is accountable?

Rugby won’t evolve if there is not debate. The game would stagnate if questions were not asked.

The national coach must be asked how he can justify the inclusion of a 20-year-old who can’t make his senior provincial squad or how he can select a 36-year-old who has played less than 120 minutes of rugby since the Super 14. These are just two examples of the recent Bok selection. Why must it simply be recorded and accepted when the decision-making of these individuals has produced so little reward?

Our administration needs to have an answer as to why New Zealand’s administration will confirm their five regional squad selections for the 2007 Super 14 on October 27 but in South Africa it is not even known who will be the fifth franchise, let alone who will play for that franchise.

If the sport does belong to people, as is the popular throw away line I hear from supporters, then why the reluctance to challenge the status quo and those who are responsible for ensuring that the game’s integrity remains in question?

Rugby fans want to support a successful team and administration. I sure as hell want to write about one. How do we realise this utopia?

We bloody well fight for it by never accepting the lies. We highlight the contradictions, the inconsistencies and the flaws.

There’s a common story told overseas and it goes like this: “There is good and bad news about South African rugby. The bad news is they have the most talented players in the world, bigger, stronger and more naturally skilled than any other country (New Zealand included). If they got their act together no one would match them.

“That’s the bad news. The good news is they’ll never get their act together.”

I refuse to accept that. And I hope other supporters feel the same way.

So I make no apology for asking questions and neither should any supporter who seeks the rugby utopia of a successful Bok team and a successful South African rugby administration.