As appearing in “Keo’s Corner” in the Cape Times and IOL
By the time you read this, there would have been confirmation that the world champion Springboks will not defend their Rugby Championship title. South Africa’s best locally-based players will play exclusively in the domestic competition that started a fortnight ago and will run until the middle of January.
South Africa, on a global rugby stage, is flexing its muscle for all the right reasons. It is in absolute contrast to the shambles that parades as South African cricket.
The national cricket governing body, supposed custodians of the sport, have over the past decade systematically destroyed the operational aspects of the sport in this country.
Sponsorships have been lost, players have been lost to overseas, fan support has been lost and the integrity of the game’s administration has been compromised through maladministration, political agendas and varying degrees of corruption allegations.
The government has intervened, which in itself seems like a contradiction because in this current climate, the South African government are hardly the bastions of purity and functional excellence.
Should the government take charge of cricket, then the International Cricket Council will, even if temporarily, suspend the Proteas from all international cricket.
Cricket, in the past week, has dominated the front pages and news sections, when cricket should be about sports sites and sports print pages.
Proteas fast bowler Kagiso Rabada is the leading wicket taker at the Indian Premier League (IPL) being played in Dubai, but his bowling brilliance seems almost secondary to every Cricket South Africa administration scandal.
Everything within cricket screams clandestine because of the unethical nature of how cricket has operated.
Transparency, within cricket, is now an ugly word when at one stage cricket was the sport in South Africa which paraded itself on transparency and transformation.
Rugby, the shamed sibling, is now the golden child.
Siya Kolisi’s transformed Springboks conquered the world at the 2019 World Cup in smashing England 32-12 in the final in Tokyo, Japan.
Rugby’s leadership, in the build-up to the World Cup a year ago, have said and done all the right things.
During the most demanding of times because of the Covid-19 pandemic, rugby’s bosses have acted with calm and spoken with clarity.
SARU CEO Jurie Roux and President Mark Alexander have consistently said that any decision in relation to the Springboks would be made for rugby reasons, which spoke to player welfare and what was good for the player and for the future of South African rugby.
This, they said, would not be compromised for the need to make quick cash.
All on-field rugby recommendations would be made by World Cup winning coach and National Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus, and his recommendations would be accepted.
It was Erasmus’s view that the Springboks in this year’s Rugby Championship would be lambs to the slaughter, having to leave for Australia on Saturday after just one round of competitive action. The Springboks squad would have had to total 45 players because of Covid infection fears and these 45 players would have to quarantine in a bubble for the next fortnight before playing in the tournament opener on 7th November.
New Zealand and Australia, by contrast, have both completed their own Super Rugby tournaments and the All Blacks and Wallabies would have played each other twice in the Bledisloe Cup.
South African rugby’s decision-makers owed it to their players and support base to focus all their attention on making the domestic Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup joined competition the best South African-only competition in the professional era.
Rugby’s bosses are acting with authority and with aplomb, whereas their cricket equivalents are a combination of disgust and disgrace.
You couldn’t have predicted this a decade ago, which tells you how rugby has progressed and cricket has regressed.