PRETORIA - Saturday’s Currie Cup finalists the Sharks and Western Province showed everything that is wrong and at the same time right about our rugby.
Firstly, it was sad to see the many empty seats in the stands at King’s Park Stadium for what was the grand finale of a Currie Cup competition that has produced some captivating performances.
The Sharks inability to fill up their home venue probably shows how tired rugby fans are, but it also speaks to how the Saru has devalued their most prized competition through sheer incompetence and bad decision making by a bunch of amateur suits.
But what was more disturbing is how the Sharks perpetuated everything that is wrong with our rugby from their inept bully tactics, to their insistence to kick the ball away instead of playing with ball in hand.
Maybe it was just that Western Province left Durban as victors on Saturday night as they not only showed how the game should be played with a dominant pack at set-piece play but they let the ball do the talking and expressed their talents.
Why would a coach not want to see the likes of Damian Willemse, Dillyn Leyds, Huw Jones, Seabelo Senatla, Ruhan Nel, Robert du Preez and even scrumhalf Dewald Duvenage do their thing with ball in hand?
Well, for his adventurous spirit and intent to see his team play good rugby, coach John Dobson was well rewarded, especially with the unpredictable switch of Willemse and Du Preez at first receiver and the freedom handed to the in-form Nizaam Carr.
Carr was instrumental in getting the basics of the game right but also not being bogged down with the “stick to the script” rugby the Sharks played.
Hats off to the Western Province pack, who were excellent in the scrums and were never shy of confrontation, while being versatile enough to get around the park and make those big tackles on the Sharks backs.
In the end, rugby and the enterprising play we want to see the Springboks continue on won.
The last bit of evil about South African rugby, which the Sharks perpetuated with perfection, is the total disregard for transformation.
It is sad that in this day and age we still have to count the number of black players on the field and unfortunately merit has nothing to do with it as has been constantly proven in the past.
The Sharks started with four black players and had one more on the bench making it a shameful five out of the 23 players in their match day squad.
And then there is the shameful story of Springbok hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle, who returned from national duty but could not make the match day squad for the semi-finals and final.
In Ralepelle’s case, the Sharks have made a mockery of black players who have earned their place and are there on merit but even more shameful is how this is allowed to happen in 2017.
It boggles the mind how Ralepelle is good enough to make the national team but can’t even get a look in on the bench at Currie Cup level.
But Ralepelle’s case is not isolated in this year’s Currie Cup as the Golden Lions have been guilty of the same offence, while many sides have stagnated and even gone backwards when it comes to giving equal and fair opportunities to black players.
That winning Western Province side again proved the logical side of transformation by fielding the match-day team with six black players in the starting line-up and a further two on the bench. Those players made it all on merit and the fact that Dobson’s team won debunks another perception that transformation and winning don’t go together.
For the Springboks to play a better, attractive and winning style of rugby and the team to be representative of the country’s demographics is not all up to Springbok coach Allister Coetzee.
Super Rugby and Currie Cup coaches also need to play their part and Dobson is leading the way with his championship side.