Bulls head coach Jake White. Picture: Morgan Treacy/INPHO/Shutterstock via Backpagepix
Bulls head coach Jake White. Picture: Morgan Treacy/INPHO/Shutterstock via Backpagepix

The IPL of rugby - World 12s - will revolutionise the game, says Jake White

By Mike Greenaway Time of article published Nov 16, 2021

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Durban - An new annual rugby tournament based on cricket’s Indian Premier League (IPL) will be the saviour of South African rugby because rich remuneration will slow the player exodus to the northern hemisphere.

This happy revelation is the strong opinion of Jake White, the Bulls and former Springbok coach, who, along with another World Cup-winning coach in Steve Hansen of New Zealand, have aligned themselves with a rugby product that could revolutionise the game.

The concept of World 12s was launched in September by its chairman Ian Ritchie, the former England head honcho, and with former chief executives of New Zealand and Wales in Steve Tew and Gareth Davies his lieutenants, the tournament has heavyweight administration and is clearly no Mickey Mouse event, especially because it has the financial backing of a UK-based consortium of investors, which aims to pump £250 million (about R5bn) into rugby over the next five years.

The tournament hopes to kick off in September 2022 – negotiations are ongoing with World Rugby – and unashamedly aims to imitate the razzmatazz of the IPL with instant gratuity for the spectators and megabucks for the highly-skilled entertainers. The best rugby players on the planet will be disseminated into the eight franchises via an IPL-style auction.

White feels that World 12s – six forwards and six backs in a cross between XVs and Sevens – is the breath of fresh air a stagnating game urgently needs.

“We need something like this to stimulate rugby because the game has been in slow motion mode for a long time,” White said.

“When the IPL started in 2008, people questioned its place, but look how it took off ...

“And from a selfish South African point of view, 12s will save South African rugby because it will be much easier to keep players in the country; they can go to 12s and earn around R2 million in three weeks and that would make up the shortfall they lose by staying in SA and not playing for a European club.

“So, when the players do their sums, they will see that by going to the 12s and remaining in SA, they can make the same money as an overseas-based player yet enjoy their South African lifestyle.”

The obvious concern about another rugby event is that the calendar is already congested, but White feels that where there is a will there is away.

“It is what the players want and that is the main thing because they drive the market ... they are very powerful and they will be listened to,” he said.

“And the players love playing with the best in their profession. I have coached the Barbarians and one of the secrets to the success of that wonderful tradition is that the players love being part of it because they rub shoulders with the best players in the world.”

White points out that rugby players have seen, with envy, how life-changing the IPL has been for cricketers.

White points out that 12s will also have a player development element in that each franchise must also include two players from tier-two countries and also a Under-20 player.

“This tournament will encourage rugby in the smaller rugby nations and also bring through a new generation of young stars, while all involved will see their skill levels improve because of the increased space to attack.

“Basically you will have a No 8 with a tight five, then six backs, and that makes it easier to play attacking rugby,” White said.

World 12s in a nutshell

The aim is for 192 of the world’s best players from tier one and tier-two nations to be auctioned off to eight franchise teams. The auction will follow a similar format to the IPL.

Each franchise will have to select two players from tie-two nations as well as one international U20 player in their squad of 24.

How does 12s differ from XVs?

There will be six forwards and six backs in a team rather than eight forwards and seven backs.

Matches will be 15 minutes each way instead of 40.

Conversions have to be drop-goals. Only one scrum reset will be permitted, with a free-kick awarded after that. Penalties for scrum infringements can’t be kicked at goal.

Tournament format

Matches would be played over three weekends, with two round-robin weekends followed by the knockout stages to determine rankings from first to eighth.

To address player welfare, there will be limits on game time for each player, with players restricted to 60 minutes across tournament.

Why a new tournament?

Steve Hansen: “The game of rugby has been around a long time and maybe we have become a bit complacent with the product.

“This concept is an opportunity to change the face of rugby with something fast and entertaining that can still include both big and little players. It is also an opportunity to simplify some of the laws.

Jake White: “This would be a three week block in which players could make money.

“If local franchises allowed players to go to this tournament to boost their income considerably, they would then have less motivation to go to the northern hemisphere.

“The player drain hurts South Africa and World 12s could help stop that.”

Schalk Burger (Bok legend): “When I was playing and the IPL was launched, the players wondered how great it would be if we could have a rugby equivalent.

“Now that it is on the horizon, I think the excitement will be off the charts. Rugby is at a point where it needs change and this is the platform to do it.”

IOL Sport

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