It is a shame that inequality has become sharper during our constitutional democracy than during apartheid.
More sun than clouds. Mild.
While some of us are still lucky enough to be enjoying the New Year festivities, I know of 14 people who are already hard at work and getting stuck into their jobs.
Some of them have more work to do than others, but all will be looking at 2008 to bring money, good fortune and peace and quiet!
I am referring to the chief executive officers of the 14 provincial unions of SA Rugby and what they will be looking for in the next 300 days before the rugby season winds down again.
Eugene van Wyk at the Griffons will be looking to boost attendances at the Northwest Stadium. For that, he obviously needs some quality teams to visit Welkom. But with his side playing almost all of their rugby in the First Division, he will battle to get the turnstiles revolving. The exciting Cecil Afrika has the ability to get people back to the stadium, but Van Wyk will probably benefit more by selling his star player to a bigger union and cashing in on the development royalties.
The Griffons have been outstanding in developing younger players and have a great transformation record, mainly due to the great work done at the Virginia Sports Academy.
Maybe Van Wyk could entice his provincial neighbours in Bloemfontein to play some of their matches in Welkom...
The Cheetahs will have logistical issues this season with Vodacom Park being renovated for the 2010 Soccer World Cup and Gerda van Solms will be looking at her numbers closely this year. Good crowds result in good additional revenues from the sale of supporters gear as the Currie Cup champions have seen over the last couple of years. Van Solms will hope for some solid Super 14 performances from her senior side to off-set possible seat losses in the Currie Cup.
Carpenter contracts have been few and far between at the Western Province headquarters in Newlands, but promising results from their Under-19 and Under-21 teams had work orders being put out for new trophy cabinets. With Rassie Erasmus at the helm, an extra cabinet has been ordered and Theuns Roodman and Rob Wagner will detest looking at it bare. Before anything else, they'll be looking for trophies to fill the empty spaces at their Boundary Road offices.
A tight-five is equally elusive at this stage, but maybe Zimbabwean Brian Mujati will add some value to the falling Stormers and WP currency.
Spoil the broth
Boland's Piet Bergh will be looking for money - any money - even Zimbabwe dollars! For a province that always entertains and produces quality players year after year, they certainly did not deserve the whole Fidentia debacle. With all the new money flocking into the winelands and golf estates in the region, maybe, just maybe, someone will throw cash at one of the most deserving, but unluckiest, provinces in SA Rugby.
However, violence in club rugby always seems to spoil the broth in Boland's blatjang and hopefully some good leadership and discipline will end this unnecessary disease.
The same at SWD. Their results have been good among their peers in the First Division and Tom Paramoer and his management would argue that they are getting back on their feet. They also need to urgently address the violence in their club game in order to bring the waves of young talent in their region back to their own fields and not those of the bigger and richer unions. Johann Muller, Pedrie Wannenburg and Bevan Fortuin should have been SWD Springboks, but they are not.
Benefit the players
Further to the north, EP would love to have unity in 2008 while a CEO that is above suspicion, a president that represents all the role players and some stability on the playing field would all be high on the wish list at the former Telkom Park Stadium.
Border have settled off the field... now they need to produce on it. So long mis-managed at administrative level, this vast region deserves more. Somehow, the millions and millions poured into development needs to benefit the players, not the officials. Maybe another Test to jump-start the good work?
Talking about vast, how big is the Griquas region? They have punched way above their weight for many years now and will do so again in 2008. Cassie Carstens has had his share of controversy and they will battle to defend the Vodacom Cup without Dawie Theron who is on Super 14 duty at the Cheetahs. However, look out for the contribution from new forwards coach, Frankel Engelbrecht. One of the best technical coaches in the country, Engelbrecht can make early targets easy ones for Carstens. The CEO will be looking for some big Currie Cup wins as well, especially away from home.
Barend van Graan will be hoping his selection of Frans Ludeke turns out to be a masterstroke. The Bulls CEO has a very impatient board that he needs to please and if Ludeke fails, many will expect Van Graan to accept responsibility. He will also be keen to see the Vodacom side perform to expectations and the Currie Cup trophy return to Loftus.
Along with Brian van Zyl at the Sharks, Van Graan is probably one of the few CEOs who cannot wait for Super 14 to start. The Bulls had record crowds in 2007 and as defending champions, more of the same can be expected. Hence, the importance of a Ludeke-coached side performing.
Van Zyl will have no problem filling the A-field or even the B-field in Durban. The Sharks brand is well established and the team is progressing all the time, but Van Zyl would be worried about the BMT of the side, especially without Percy Montgomery and John Smit. He will expect better results from perennial under-achievers, the Wildebeest, though.
The Pumas are without a coach, a CEO and players as well and their long-serving president, Gert Grobler, is battling ill health. As a result, things look very gloomy indeed for the Witbank team, who a year ago secured Chester Williams on a three-year deal.
Off the field issues have also crippled the once proud union who produced three Springboks in 2002 alone. Today, they have all the potential, but big problems.
Expect Grobler to battle adversity though, as the former provincial No 8 is not one to turn his cheek to a challenge.
The Falcons are in limbo as well. They're battling to pay their players and Naas Botha has left without building on a promising start and very few of the current crop will become Springboks in the future. However, they do have strong clubs and somehow Jurie Coetzee has managed to keep the lid on the boiling pot.
They are a union that thrives on momentum, but will need some luck to get the year going.
The Leopards have the Puk Rugby Institute as their biggest achievement, but it was an uneasy marriage in the past and one that hampered the expected progress of a forward thinking union. Eugene Hare was an institution at the province as a player and acts with passion as CEO, so maybe they will be able to move forward; especially after the boost they received from platinum monies.
Finally, Manie Reynecke is still arranging furniture in his Lions den, but is already building something special. I tip the Lions to become the powerhouse of old. Reynecke is a hands-on CEO and they have good structures in place.
A happy 2008 to all, especially to those who need to secure the foundations our rugby fortunes will depend upon!
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