JOHANNESBURG - The Springboks, and South African rugby in general, is on life support. The fans are fed-up with a losing Bok side, they’re fed-up with too much of the same in Super Rugby, and no-one cares much about the Currie Cup anymore either.
Some have already turned their backs on the Boks, but you get the sense more and more once ardent supporters have had enough. You just had to read the comments on social media following the Boks’ defeat to the Wallabies on Saturday to know the support base is angry. Very angry.
And they have every right to be. For years now every new coach comes in and arranges planning camps, alignment camps, training camps ... call them what you will. These guys talk a good game, say things that give the fans something to hang on to, to believe in ... hope, but then deliver exactly what the guy before him produced ... nothing.
If we’re honest with ourselves, the last time the Boks were great, and I mean really great, was way back in the late 90s when Nick Mallett was coach. He led his team on a then-record number of Test wins, the Boks were feared and respected, the fans believed they were the best in the world - and maybe they were? You knew what you were going to get - passion, fight, skill, consistency, victories. But not anymore.
Interest in the Boks is dwindling. The fans are talking and they’re saying they’re done. We’ve again heard things like the Boks are “wounded” ... heck, they’ve been that for years now, and that they are on “life support”; they’ve also been in this state for who-knows-how-long?
The Boks, once one of the mighty teams in world rugby, were only able to attract 27 849 people to watch them take on the Wallabies in Brisbane last weekend. Compare that to the 66 318 people who paid to watch the same Wallabies face the All Blacks in Sydney three weeks earlier?
Just last year only 17 528 turned up to watch Allister Coetzee’s team play in Perth. But it’s not only abroad that the fans don’t seem to care about watching the Boks. In Durban three weeks ago when they hosted Argentina only 26 836 paid to enter the stadium ... that’s just over half of the 52 000 capacity. It’ll be interesting to see how many turn up in Port Elizabeth and Pretoria in the next few weeks to watch the home Tests against the Wallabies and All Blacks respectively.
But, if the Boks are losing support, spare a thought for the Currie Cup guys, who are playing in front of empty stands each week. Now that’s a competition on its knees. There were just on 1 500 people who went and watched their Griquas team host the Blue Bulls in Kimberley last Saturday. Yes, it was cold, but for a town that never gets any big rugby events, surely the Currie Cup is something for the fans to get excited about? Not.
And, not even the Lions (albeit a weakened team) can draw a decent crowd to Ellis Park in the Currie Cup; they had 5 350 and 3 424 fans watching them take on the Cheetahs and Griquas respectively recently.
For a myriad of reasons South African fans are losing interest in their rugby. A Springbok team which wins regularly would go a long way to changing this, but sadly that appears to be a long, long way off right now.