Has the professional era doomed rugby in Johannesburg?
From proud days when the rugby team from Johannesburg was known as Transvaal and could sweep all before their path in South Africa, the new team, the Golden Lions have turned their fans against them, fired their coach and the administrators are making strange statements.
The excellent article written by Rugby Guru on http://www.sport24.co.za blogs highlights a massive problem in the game in South Africa and one that has been caused by the shift into the professional game or the modern era of rugby.
The Lions were thrashed by the British Lions 74-10 in Johannesburg and it is doubtful that a team from Gauteng has ever put up such a poor performance against an international touring team before.
What will the Golden Lions fans do should their team fall out of the Super 15 and become a spent force in South African rugby? How do you, as a loyal fan actually support another team or province in South Africa? Could a born and bred Joburg boykie suddenly become a Shark or Bulls or Cheetahs supporter?
True supporters don’t bail on their team just because they playing badly. Any avid sports fan would have grown up in Johannesburg wanting to play for the Transvaal primary schools rugby or cricket or swimming team. Local was lekker and that’s how we grew up in South Africa. The Cape Town people supported Western Province who are now known as the Stormers, Durban people supported the Banana Boys and if you came from Port Elizabeth, you supported EP.
Going to the Boet Erasmus to support Eastern Province in the 1970‘s and 1980’s was an exciting affair. The curtain raisers started at about 11am and school boy fans would rush to the Boet in their droves to watch and hook up with other mates. Later on, just before the main game, the stadium would start filling up with the hard core, blue collar EP rugby supporters.
The Boet Erasmus playing field was surrounded by wire to prevent the fans from running onto the field. It wasn’t always difficult to understand why. The Boet was always an intimidating place for other teams and the supporters certainly played their part.
The ouks from Despatch would start vloeking the opposition players, with big men like Kevin De Klerk and Moaner Van Heerden copping a lot of abuse. Oranges would be thrown at players with the big farmers from Patensie joining in with their biltong. A referee had even been klapped in the tunnel long before anybody had heard of Piet Van Zyl.
Throughout the 1980’s EP competed in the highest echelons of South African rugby and even if they never won the Currie Cup, that didn’t bother the ardent EP supporter. We shouted for our team whether we won or lost the rugby and would cheer our team when they won the fight.
However professionalism killed competitive rugby quickly in the Eastern Cape. Slowly even the die hard fan stopped supporting EP and the team ended up not even being able to attract fans when playing at a school field in Humansdorp. EP dropped to becoming the worst provincial team in South African rugby.
This slide from grace was dismaying for the EP fan and we became the first fans in South Africa to lose our team. That is why we the disenfranchised fans from Port Elizabeth support the move to have a Super 15 team in our town.
What South African rugby needs is a bit of the old style promotion/relegation games. And we cannot allow the administrators to hide behind their lack of performance any longer. The administrators wrecked the game in the Eastern Cape and a similar situation now exists in Johannesburg.
Should a team fall out of the Super 15 for a season and lose some sponsorship……..deal with it Mr. Administrator and look for another job.
The top five teams in the Currie Cup must play in the Super 15, as the Aussies seemed to have scooped the extra franchise in the competition.
And if that promotion/relegation place took place between the Golden Lions and the Southern Kings one thing is for certain. Rugby Guru will be shouting for his team just as hard as I will be shouting for mine.