The Big Debate

SA Rugby magazine asks: Should the Vodacom Cup be scrapped?

vcYES: John Dobson (UCT 1st XV coach)

‘I’m convinced the only reason SA Rugby has kept the Vodacom Cup going for so long is because of its contractual obligation to the sponsor. The competition is not of a particularly high standard considering the amount of money that’s been invested in it. As I told SA Rugby magazine last year, Western Province played their 2008 Vodacom Cup matches at Villagers Rugby Club, which says a lot about the level of interest in the competition. The Varsity Cup final attracted 18 000 – more than any Vodacom Cup game last season.

‘The Vodacom Cup has also had a negative impact on the broader growth of rugby in this country because the provinces only focus on a very small group of players who they identify very early on in their careers. This hampers the ambition of talented club players who aren’t in that system. The Vodacom Cup contradicts its old slogan of “Tomorrow’s Springboks today”, because any player who plays senior rugby these days has come through the provincial ranks – they aren’t being discovered in the Vodacom Cup. Provinces tend to pick players who have been in the system from start to finish because they have invested a lot of money in them. They don’t cast the net any wider.

‘SA Rugby should rather invest its money in a national club league that includes the 10 strongest clubs from the north and the 10 strongest from the south. This would strengthen the ties between the clubs and the provinces.’

N0: Jerome Paarwater (WP Vodacom Cup coach)

‘The Vodacom Cup is still a very important competition for South African rugby. If our players get injured in the Super 14, where are the coaches going to get replacements from? They certainly can’t get them from the Varsity Cup. While the Varsity Cup is an eye-catching competition and great to watch, its biggest problem is the defensive abilities of the teams. Most of the players who are brought into the provincial set-up from the Varsity Cup are weak in that department. In the Vodacom Cup, we focus a lot on structure and defence, which gives the players a better grounding for Super 14 rugby, and it’s a far more professional environment.

‘There are so many rugby players in this country that the more competitions we have the better. At the moment, those players who don’t make a Super 14 squad drop down to a Vodacom Cup squad and have the opportunity to attract the attention of the Super 14 coaches and work their way back up again. This keeps the pressure on our Super 14 players to perform each week or risk being dropped.

‘If I were to make one change to the current Vodacom Cup format, it would be to play the games on a Wednesday or Thursday night, instead of over the weekend when it’s competing with the Super 14. This way the Vodacom Cup would get more TV coverage and attract more fans to the games. We saw how much attention the Varsity Cup got last year when matches were played on a Monday night.’

Do you think the Vodacom Cup should be scrapped? Send your views to [email protected]