SABC must come to the party

2011-08-27 00:00

THIS Springbok team, to borrow some of the famous words from Francois Pienaar in 1995, should be a team for 45 million people, not only 45 000.

Or, to put it more bluntly, this team should have been announced to 45 million people, not only those 45 000 with DTStv decoders.

I am sure Ard Matthews would disagree with me strongly, as his original humiliation was limited to those who had tuned in via SuperSport’s exclusive broadcast of the naming of the squad.

I have to declare my interests here. SuperSport is owned by Naspers, the company I work for and, indeed, the same company that brings you Sport24 and this website.

Also, the people at SuperSport have always been professional in their dealings with me; they are passionate and competent, and having travelled the world, I can assure you that few bring the game to you, the viewer, the way SuperSport cameras and production teams do.

In fact, I have nothing but respect for its operation.

Having said that, I feel SuperSport is taking its right to exclusivity in its Boks’ sponsorship too far.

I know it pays millions for broadcasting rights and deserves its stake in the Bok pie and returns on its investment. But when it comes to naming the Bok side, especially the one selected for World Cup duty, more should be done to make sure all fans are involved, not only those who have access to pay TV.

I remember Jake White’s passion when he took the Bok job in 2004 and how adamant he was to bring back some Bok traditions. One of them was to create the massive expectation that the naming of a Bok team created.

White recalled being a young boy, waiting with in front of the radio for a Bok team to be announced.

Early in his tenure he managed to create some hype around his team announcements and also got the manager to read out the Test match team during press conferences. A lot of the journalists covering the Boks at the time often joked that it was the team manager’s only job, but in fact, it was a good move by White.

Then slowly that disappeared, and as we have at the moment, teams are announced via electronic media and — the worst thing one can do during a team announcement — in alphabetical order.

We had that again the other night with the World Cup squad announcement. Sorry, Willem Alberts, but the first name should have been the captain, John Smit, and then the fullbacks, wings, etc., but that doesn’t build up nicely on TV, does it?

Anyway, getting back to the exclusivity issue, I hope the South African Rugby Union (Saru) will address it in future.

We are expecting all South Africans to support the team, but we only name it to a privileged few. Surely Saru, who own this team, can convince SuperSport (who “own” the team) to provide coverage to the SABC and etv on this special occasion as part of its social responsibility or nation-building project?

Let me not start on SABC’s pathetic efforts to cover rugby. Time and again some bigwig at the organisation has managed to kill off The Rugga Show, one of the most watched TV shows on SABC, and for that alone the national broadcaster deserves nothing.

But whatever some executive at SABC thinks, the Springboks do deserve national attention and rugby does have a right to a dedicated show on one if its channels.

One can only hope for this to improve. But maybe if someone makes a decision now, that come 2015 the Springbok team announcement for that year’s World Cup will be made widely accessible to its fans, then just maybe we will have the opportunity to get the real feel of support from all South Africans for the team from day one of the announcement.

On September 1 the Boks will take to the streets in Sandton on their way to the airport. They will walk from Nelson Mandela Square to the Gautrain station from where they will race to O.R. Tambo International.

Let’s hope SABC at least sees the opportunity of that to bring live action to its viewers. An outside broadcast of that could really build support for the team from those who only have SABC in their living rooms and will allow them to feel some of the spirit of the Rugby World Cup, seeing the Boks off on their way to make South Africa proud.

Surely SuperSport doesn’t have exclusive rights to that as well?

— Sport24.

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