Time to seize the moment

It’s time to make bold, proactive decisions to fight a global rugby problem, writes former Springbok STEFAN TERBLANCHE.

Usually rugby and the characters playing the beautiful game provide us with much to talk about, and we never really have a dull moment. In saying that, even in the absence of live sport, there has been so much to think about I don’t quite know where to begin.

In the bigger picture, we are facing much more important issues that need to be addressed right now – not only in South Africa, but globally – and I have only sympathy and understanding for the inevitable ramifications of the coronavirus outbreak.

As a result of the pandemic, we have been deprived of watching the game we love. It has also provided some much-needed time to slow down, look at the game from a totally different perspective and think about what issues need to be addressed to ensure the wellbeing of the game in the future.

Indeed, if we were brutally honest with one another, we would all agree that certain areas urgently need to be fixed. This will require some real courage from the administrators and some drastic steps will need to be taken. We will never have another chance like now to enforce change.

Locally and globally we see rugby teams and franchises bleeding financially and many fighting for survival. USA Rugby filed for bankruptcy, while Rugby Australia has projected a loss of up to A$120-million in the worst-case scenario and stood down 75% of their staff. New Zealand Rugby will be bailing out the five Super Rugby franchises to the tune of NZ$250,000 each while predicting a multi-million dollar loss.

I do understand that the coronavirus contributed to this but I don’t for one moment believe that’s it the only reason for the current rugby crisis. Whether we like to hear it or not, South African Rugby is also in financial trouble. It is a not a South African rugby problem, but a global rugby problem.

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Over the next few months, the way the world works will change forever. That will go for most businesses, the way we conduct meetings, the way we travel, the way we communicate. The list goes on.

The importance of living in the present, dealing with what you can and dealing with the current situation has become the main focus and drive to get us through every day. However, the time will come again to kickstart everything and to pick up the intensity of life. 

Like professional rugby players during this time, we need to stay physically and mentally fit – after all we have always said that sport is a reflection of society. We always use the excuse that rugby is fairly young with regards to professionalism but, with the world recalibrating and the status quo going out the window, now is the time to change the game completely. 

From a South African rugby perspective, this may mean going ahead and joining the northern hemisphere, or only having a select number of fully-professional outfits in South Africa. Change the salaries and renumeration of players, incentivise administrators and see who the real rugby men are and who are serving the game for the right reasons. 

It will not be easy but the current situation provides us with the perfect opportunity to do everything we’ve always talked about. Do it all now! Let’s be one step ahead of all other professional sports and establish ourselves as not only the best sport between the four white lines but also the best managed and best run sport off the pitch.

This is our time.

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*Terblanche is a former Springbok who earned 37 Test caps. He is now the CEO of the SA Rugby Legends Association and served as a member of World Rugby’s judicial committee at the 2019 World Cup. His column was brought to you by Tuttle Insurance Brokers.