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My note to Bill van Zyl

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Hi Bill,

As always you put things as they appear to be at the coalface. Unfortunately there are many who influence sport who are shadowy figures supported by those in government.


Our former PP should have looked at a case for “Sport Capture” whilst still in situ.


There are a number of things that have been brought to the fore over the past few months:

We still arrogantly believe that we are the best rugby nation in the World. That was true in 1995 when we still had a positive win ratio against the ABs 21-18 – and of course everybody else.

We did not transition well or efficiently from amateur to professional rugby. For the most part our structures are still amateurish.

We did not pay attention to the effect of pro-rugby or the club structure.

In addition the smaller unions were dragged into “the fold” of the bigger unions and became reliant on a share of income.

The academy structure grew despite any attention to the effect on the relationship between schools and clubs and then the step-up to elite rugby.


The formation of SASCOC led to a diminishment of the responsibility of federations.


SRSA had a negative effect on all sports as club structures were still trying to find their feet in the pro-era and Natal were the first to declare a pro structure alongside an amateur structure – i.e. Natal-Sharks (Pty) Ltd and KZNRFU.


It seems that NZRFU is being held as the benchmark for rugby structures when in fact the Americans are light years ahead of everybody in terms of professional structures and distribution of talent. Tottenham Hotspur were the first football club to declare on the LSE and must be the leaders in that regard.


When pro rugby started, SARU should have sent competent delegations to other parts of the sporting World to study the effects and fashioned a “Bottom-up” structure that would allow a feeder system into the elite structures.

With the exception of “private schools”, Government Schools in particular, were left to fend for themselves. I emphasis this for two basic reasons: every sport Charter that I have read recognises the original formation of their structure as being bottom-up (from clubs). They declare themselves to be FREE of government interference or influence. The simple maxim is that one does not build a house from the rafters down. Schools are not the responsibility of sport federations/clubs but a healthy exchange of skills and knowledge should be encouraged.


In addition none of the government departments who have a stated stake in sport are talking to one another. Dept of lower and higher education, SRSA, Dept of Health and Treasury should all have a forum of nominated representatives holding discussions on a regular basis with sport federations. To think that this could be held through the existing structure which is SASCOC is whimsical.


When I finished reading the 23 drafts of the White Paper and the final SRSA National Strategic Plan(NSP) I was struck with one defining thought: “This is a fairy tale written by professional fairy tale tellers”.


It is a load of mumbo-jumbo written by academics who have never sat in a club AGM, organised fund-raising events, marked a rugby field, visited neighbouring schools on a regular basis to encourage new recruits or struggled to buy a new set of jerseys. They have never sat in committee rooms debating the rules and regulations or overseeing a disciplinary hearing. They have torn around their neighbourhood in their little motor car on a Saturday morning using their own fuel trying to find just two more players to make up the fiery fourths. 


Straight out of school I helped found Harlequins Rugby Club on The Bluff. I served as an administrator in cricket and hockey and then became a runner serving on KZN Athletics Executive. Despite being a “larney” I never forgot my umbical cord to my club and never shirked in helping to measure our club marathon or from holding a flag at a street corner taking abuse from motorists affected by road closures.


This country has become obsessed with turning things around from one form of apartheid to another. The difference being that the    

nouveau empowered do not give thought to the working class in their various sports. Good administrators have been replaced by teachers with no experience of administration and leaders have come from the ranks of failed businessmen or aspirant politicians.


The vision of Mandela has blurred and disappeared as the width of the feeding trough has increased.


No amount of Indabas will find a solution. Solutions lie with people who have grass roots experience not a group of elite former International players.


Despite all of the above, Jake White still managed to win RWC 2007. More recently Heyneke Meyer managed a credible 3rd place.


Yes Mr Coetzee, Jake White did have a hard time to start with, but he did not lose to Argentina, Ireland at home or to Italy. Jake learned how to deal with the interference of politicians and got on with his job. To compare himself to Jake White, Coetzee offers insult to the RWC Winner who gave him an undeserved job.


Coetzee is a poor coach with little ability to organise or inspire a team. He was in effect replaced as backline coach in 2007 by Eddie Jones and fired by Western Province who cited Coetzee’s “lack of ambition”. What rankles most with me is that whilst all in SA Rugby are making grovelling apologies, neither SARU nor Allister Coetzee will take responsibility. They have not uttered those words and in fact Coetzee declared himself to be of the opposite view.


In demonstration of the effect a good or bad coach can have on a team - in the Aviva Cup which is the top club competition in England, Bath had an abysmal season last year. At season end the sacked Coach Ford and brought in Todd Blackadder. Bath are 3rd just 6 points behind Saracens and two behind Wasps. 

In football, Newcastle and Aston Villa were both relegated. Newcastle changed managers twice last season and engaged Rafa Benitez for their last few fixtures of the season in a desperate but failed attempt to avoid relegation. Benitez stuck with the club and is top of the Championship with a likelihood of being promoted back to the Premiership. Villa have a harder row to hoe but the introduction of Steve Bruce has turned this failed club into winners again and they will finish within fighting distance of promotion. In the case of both clubs, little has changed by way of personnel. It is a manager who brings determination, experience, a will to win which rubs off on players and a pre-determined plan.

Coetzee has none of the qualities needed for this very difficult and demanding job.


Can we climb out of this funk? NO!. Such are the controlling structures in our sport that the declaration by the Minister Mbalula makes clear who THE BOSS IS:


The White Paper issued in 2012 contains the most telling statement about sport and freedom of choice under the National Constitution:

“National Government

Role of the national Minister responsible for sport and recreation

The Minister of Sport and Recreation is the custodian of sport and recreation in South Africa. The Minister has the legislative powers to oversee the development and management of sport and recreation in the country. The Minister is therefore the principal authority of government with regards to all sport and recreation matters.”


This statement and its language indicate in general terms, the alarming attitude of the government towards its people and their subservient status.

This department does not set itself out to serve but to dominate.



In short, we are screwed. Graeme Joffe and a limited few others warned of this but he was never supported by his colleagues who give every impression of being nothing but a bunch of cowed wimps.  


I wish us all good luck!!!

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