PRETORIA - T’is the season to be jolly, but there is nothing to be happy about if you're a South African rugby fan.
If rugby is your way of life then there won’t be any white Christmas with pressies from Santa Claus at the foot of that decorated tree. And forget that stuffed turkey, too.
Instead, many of us will be wracking our brains on what it is that lies in store for the Springboks and our Super Rugby franchises next year.
Well, the expectation won’t be much considering what a horrible year 2017 has been in South African rugby, with the exception of the Blitzboks. I want to address the suits who have already stolen a pleasant Christmas this year and implore them to make the right decision in the coming days.
While the Blitzbokke are that Christmas turkey that never stops giving, the right thing needs to be done to ensure that Neil Powell has everything at his disposal to retain the Commonwealth gold medal and also win gold at the World Cup.
The big decision will be on the availability of Seabelo Senatla, Kwagga Smith and Tim Agaba as they are contracted to the Stormers, Lions and Bulls for Super Rugby.
The elephant in the room over the weekend at the Cape Town Sevens was obviously how to avoid talking about the unceremonious and embarrassing downfall of Steinhoff, who happen to be the main sponsor to the Blitzboks, and this just after allegedly extending their sponsorship and locking down themselves as the sole sponsor on the jersey and shorts.
The Blitzbokke are an easy sell to any sponsor and as much as the crumbled empire from Stellenbosch would have put down top rand to be the sole sponsor, this is a no brainer for any company that wants to be affiliated with a successful and picture perfect rugby brand in South Africa.
Another elephant in the room in Cape Town this week will be the small matter of Springbok coach Allister Coetzee’s future. Does he stay or does he go?
I’m glad I’m not the one making this decision but it is one that will have to be made with thoughtful haste in order to afford the Springboks the luxury of time in the new year to prepare for England in June. A lot is against Coetzee, starting from the team’s mediocre results to the loss of faith by many, if not most, Springbok supporters.
Surely, even the sponsors are crying for a new man in charge of the Springboks but the dilemma that Saru faces is who?
Truth be told, there are no South Africans within the borders of the country with the necessary skills to coach internationally and those that are available but outside the borders, have burnt their bridges. And then there is the ghost of the Currie Cup that continues to haunt Saru.
Try as they may to get rid of it, it keeps on coming back. The Cup needs a permanent place on the calendar as it is an important pipeline between amateur and professional rugby.
Amongst the big decisions to be made, let Saru not forget, is about awarding the two new franchises to the right provinces and beyond looking at the numbers presented to them, they must consider the long term sustainability of those franchises and their ability to grow the game.
Then there is that ugly name of transformation. As it stands, be it at Springbok, Super Rugby and Currie Cup level, the numbers are shockingly low and paint a picture of a sport that is at war with itself.
The sad reality is that rugby refuses to embrace the majority of South Africans and it is that very stubbornness to change at all levels that will ultimately lead to its demise. But I get the feeling that I am demanding too much from the suits to make these decisions and make this Christmas a jolly one.
After all, these are turkeys in suits and I’ve never heard of them ever voting for Christmas.