12 Dec 2008
Paul Treu should be allowed to select the best-possible SA side for the Sevens World Cup in Dubai.
Treu’s current group of players has won two IRB tournaments in a row and axing some of them for the game’s showpiece event would be harsh. But professional sport is all about winning, and if South Africa want to become Sevens world champions in March they must give themselves the best possible chance of doing so.
Imagine how much interest would be generated in South Africa if Treu called up Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen, Pierre Spies and Ryan Kankowski for the Sevens World Cup. Sure, they would miss a couple rounds of the Super 14, but isn’t a major international competition supposed to take precedence?
As some of you on this site know, I have always had a love-hate relationship with Sevens. I love the fact that the game, like T20 cricket, provides fans with plenty of action in a short space of time and allows minnow rugby nations, like Kenya and Portugal, to be a lot more competitive than they are in the 15-man arena.
However, I hate the fact that the best players do not take part. In South Africa, only those who aren’t good enough to play Super 14 rugby (with the exception of the talented Robert Ebersohn) are picked for the Sevens side. And while these guys tell everyone how much they love Sevens, it’s obvious they’d rather be playing 15-man rugby. Hell, even Fabian Juries, our greatest-ever Sevens player, turned his back on the abbreviated game this season when the Cheetahs included him in their Super 14 training squad. So much for him being a Sevens specialist.
The reality of the situation is that the SA Sevens team consists of Vodacom Cup-standard players, and because of this, I think they devalue the Bok jersey. Let’s be honest, do the likes of Mzwandile Stick and Marius Schoeman really deserve to wear the green and gold? My answer is a resounding no. I think the SA Sevens side should play in a different jersey, perhaps with gold being the dominant colour, and be called the Proteas. This would give the team its own unique identity and prevent the Bok jersey from being cheapened.
Take the Australian cricket team, for example. Would the famous baggy green cap be as special if their T20 players were also allowed to wear them? Of course not. Only those who are picked for Tests — the pinnacle of the game — have that honour.
Finally, I think SA Rugby should be doing everything in its power to get Sevens rugby televised on the SABC. Our Sevens team is full of black players, and black South Africans — many of whom do not have access to SuperSport — should be able to watch them throughout the year. Sevens is also a great way to introduce people to the sport, and they’d soon become fans of the 15-man version too. Hopefully, SuperSport would consider the bigger picture and share their TV rights with the national broadcaster — starting with the Sevens World Cup.
By Simon Borchardt