Rugby: it’s not fun anymore

2012-03-20 07:48

David Moseley

You probably recall those mid-90s Springbok Tri-Nations matches in New Zealand rather fondly. I do. I was still at school back then, and spent many weekends with my grandparents (they had Mnet). On Tri-Nations Saturdays my granddad would wake me up, usually around 4am in those days, with a cup of teeth-melting sugary tea and a toasted cheese sandwich that, had it ever been placed on an airport runway, could’ve halted a runaway Boeing.

The two of us would sit there in sleepy silence and watch the game, my granddad snoring through the most pertinent parts, like the first 80 minutes (he was a soccer man, and only ever “watched” rugby because I enjoyed it) and me wailing and gnashing under my breath as the Boks succumbed to their usual 50-nil New Zealand drubbing.

It was a special time and a happy routine, made it all the more magical because my Glaswegian granddad could care less for the Boks, yet got me up anyway, but also because there was something fun and romantic about getting up to watch rugby while it was still pitch black outside.

You probably all did it, and you probably all remember how rubbish the Boks were when they played in New Zealand in the 90s. Yet somehow those early morning games never deterred us from waking, always expecting for “this” to be the Saturday when Springbok luck would improve.

Nothing but a memory

Those mornings are consigned to the memory scrapheap now. Still, when we do play sport at odd hours, like the Proteas are busy doing in New Zealand, I like to wake up in the dark and have a cuppa with my team, mostly because it reminds me of my granddad, but also because it reminds of when rugby was fun, and not a board meeting in studs.

For me, the game has lost its lustre. Somewhere between 1995 and hearing last night that Varsity Cup teams were cheating (it only took three years, surely a record of sorts?), the game booted the romance of rugby into touch and started mauling cheerlessly and relentlessly towards bottom line results.

It’s tiresome, formulaic and dreary. You can tell the powers-that-be know this, because every weekend commentators are frantically trying to tell us how exciting a particular game is – when they know better.

At this stage of the season during the Super 12 we would be getting excited about semi-final prospects. A third of the season gone, we’d be looking at the form books and figuring out who would make the Springbok squad. Now, with Super Rugby, we have coaches still talking about “getting into it”, “improving week-by-week”, “looking at the bigger picture” or noting that “it’s a long season still to come” - a long season of what, snoring in front of the telly?

Did you know the Stormers are top of the log? How the hell did they manage that? Oh wait, their opponents have fallen asleep in the second half of every game at Newlands so far.

Test rugby is no better, with players and coaches talking about “the next four years” or the cycle between World Cups. For sure, like any fan I want my team to win the World Cup, but not at the expense of having some fun in between. I blame Jake White for this “World Cup cycle phenomenon”. He put so much emphasis on winning 2007, that fans were happy to give him a free pass for some of the atrocities committed between winning the 2004 Tri-Nations and the 2007 World Cup.

Yes, like all sports, rugby is a business now and blah blah one poor excuse after another. But that shouldn’t be the sole reason for squeezing all the life, spirit and fun out of the beautiful game.

I used to go to as many Western Province matches as I could: Vodacom Cup, Currie Cup and Super Rugby. Today, rugby is so dire and lifeless, you won’t catch me within 500m of a TV showing a game.

It may seem odd to declare rugby dead on a weekend that the Stormers went top, the Sharks beat the defending champions and the Cheetahs won it after the final whistle with the best of smash-and-grab tries. But don’t let those little victories fool you. The game is played by men in suits, who smile when the money rolls in, not when a forward pack rolls over the try line.

For me, nobody seems to be having any fun anymore, and that’s far more devastating than losing a game.

- Follow @david_moseley on Twitter.

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  • Chris - 2012-03-20 07:58

    It's still fun to watch if you're a Sharks supporter.

      Ronald - 2012-03-20 12:24

      David Mosely might as well state that it is NOT fun to watch movies anymore. Humbug!Did you see the Cheetahs vs the Rebels this weekend Mr Mosely? As with all elements of life, entertainment sports and politics. Nothing is constant.

      Edward - 2012-03-20 21:11

      Come to the US, rugby is up and coming. Soon we might even have a credible World Cup team. But until then we have our kid's rugby teams. They only get to practice a couple of times a week and they always seem to play on some beat up "football" field but the sport is growing. Maybe that's because of the growing number of South Africans I meet at every match. Warrenton Wolfpack has four South Africans including my step-son. Come to think of it I hear more Afrikaans at Rugby than I did on my last visit to SA.

      Peter - 2012-03-22 16:33

      Glad some of you still find it exciting. Its lost the edge for me - could it be the saying "more is less" that has caught up with me. I'll even miss a Sharks game these days, I even sleep well before a test. Too much - each game isn't a special treat anymore. (Ok, for me - dry your legs!)

      Squeegee - 2012-03-22 20:49

      Sorry David, you can't have it both ways. You can't avoid watching a game and then still have the right to call it boring. How can we believe your comments if.."Today, rugby is so dire and lifeless, you won’t catch me within 500m of a TV showing a game." Perhaps you need to start watching again before you let rip with this sort of drivel.

  • Rinus - 2012-03-20 08:04

    You forgot to mention the referee's influence - 4 out of 5 movements end in a penalty. And every scrum. It should be called "Referee", not "Rugby"!

  • leonard.w.gray - 2012-03-20 08:35

    I agree with you, rugby has become so boring, I don't even know why teams have back lines anymore. They should all bash and bash until a penalty accrues. The ruck is a mess, you can't compete unless you doing a handstand going through a non existent gate. The scrums are a farce with penalties granted to players who don't even know if they are the villain or the hero. And the worst is when a team gets the ball at the back of the ruck and they hold it there for like 5 minutes doing nothing but looking at the opposition!!! I would love to see a team that throws caution to the wind and PLAYS rugby and not try suck penalties every 5 minutes!! Players and administrators should watch some old school rugby from the 80's and see how enjoyable it was for players and fans alike. Will we ever see players of the caliber of Danie Gerber, David Campese and co. again?

      Peter - 2012-03-22 16:36

      And all the okes are huge now - so we don't have the great excitement Lomu brought to the game anymore. No more character, all the players are like clones of each other, none stand out the way they used to. Its like having whole teams of body builders.

  • jacques.byliefeldt - 2012-03-20 08:42

    I agree with the point you are making , but come hell or high water , i'm still watching as much rugby as possible. I would love for those early morning games to make it's you I also have fond memories of those early ,bitterly cold mornings in front of the tv supporting our teams.

      Peter - 2012-03-22 16:37

      Those early mornings were the best! People have become soft, want to lie in on Saterday mornings!

  • Gus - 2012-03-20 09:00

    Totally agree - too much of a good thing is bad. There is waaay too much rugby being played today. I read an article in a magazine the other day - Rugby in 2023. The writer was taking the p1ss - but it could well be true. Tuesday morning Super rugby. They dropped the S12 and S14 cause it's S44 now. Playing every day of the week except Thursdays. The english test team comprising of 2 native englishmen, the resy Aussies and Saffa's... etc etc. Money is killing the game !!!

      Peter - 2012-03-22 16:38

      Its becoming like soccer. I wonder what keeps their fans so fanatic - and some games have a nil all result! Weird.

  • Rinus - 2012-03-20 09:03

    I like the Varsity Cup scoring system - 5 for a try, 3 for a conversion (i.e. not taking a good kicker out of the game) but only 2 for a penalty and a drop-goal..... resulting in many more tries!

      gbbfg - 2012-03-20 12:26

      My biggest problem with rugby is exactly that though. How can you have different rules for different types of games? One of the things that has made football so hugely successful is the fact that it's exactly the same game whether played on a dirt patch in Uganda or in front of 80 000 at the Bernabeu. Rugby has a lot of rule "tweaking" that carries on to this day, a sign of a flawed set of rules in the first place. Then the rules change from place to place, and then you have league and union... and now you're telling me that in the Varsity Cup you get a different scoring system? Then they continue with provincial rugby while players are away on international duty. The logic of this will forever escape me. How can you do that? So the best team loses the most players, but we keep on playing anyway? How can any rugby statistic have any relevance whatsoever when all these things are put together? I could never take such a game seriously.

  • Rory - 2012-03-20 09:21

    I still love Rugby, I think its a great sport and despite the somehwhat true situation you refer to above David, I still feel a buzz every time the Boks play and every time a South African Super Rugby team thumps the Wallabies or Kiwis. Long live Rugby, long live braai's, beer and boerewors. From South Africa.

      Peter - 2012-03-22 16:40

      We don't thump the Kiwi's enough - but ja, tests still have my attention. They must just keep them limited to keep them special.

  • Koos - 2012-03-20 09:27

    Dude.... gaan kyk dan eerder netbal.... jy worry my want dan kyk jy die verkeerde games!

      Peter - 2012-03-22 16:41

      Better looking woman in netball though?

  • Warren - 2012-03-20 10:02

    True. As a die hard rugby supporter who never missed a match, to this season barely watching a game. The game is slowly dying. As someone who couldn't give a toss about soccer, I know find myself enthralled at the pace and skill level of the game, something that rugby has deteriorated in. Watch old games, the game was faster and less controlled by referees. The modern game is but a hybrid of League, NFL and what we used to call Union...

  • Mouldy - 2012-03-20 10:09

    Speak for yourself bud, my friends and I love our rugby and we get together all the time for breakfast, a braai or whatever to watch the game together. But then again its clear from your diatribe that you know very little about the game; the Blacks NEVER beat the Boks by 50 points, ever. Maybe you should catch up with the latest rules, "the more you know the better it gets". Ever heard that before? No, I didn't think so. Rather comment on something you know, very limiting scope I know, but give it a shot.

      David - 2012-03-20 11:44

      The above column is not a diatribe, simply a point of view. We don't all have to share the same opinions. Imagine how boring that would be. You see, I respect your opinions without being a tool.

      Peter - 2012-03-22 16:44

      They certainly put 50 against us in one game I watched - but ja, you're right, never by 50 points. Copped 48 against the Aussies if I remember. Anyway, thats the only part of your comment I sort of agree with. Glad you still enjoying the game the way we used to - most I know don't.

  • MarkSchrade1980 - 2012-03-20 10:16

    Get involved with superbru, in a way forces u to be involved with every game

      Citroes - 2012-03-20 12:32

      Yep, agree - it certainly improved my Super Rugby experience for the first season or 2, but then it also starts losing its luster. Still if you're new to it, it does make the rugby a hell of a lot more interesting.

  • Jandré - 2012-03-20 11:45

    The game has changed yes, yet for some reason we all still plan our lives around it,regardless of who we support. Cherish the memories you have, but with the unbelievable young talent surfacing im sure it's safe to say you'll be able to make new ones with your own grandchildren. I understand why modern day rugby is being reffered to as a game played by men in suits, however, I personally cannot fathom the idea of a guy like Coenie Oostehuizen creating that impression. "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." Lets enjoy the game!! Bokke Bo

      Peter - 2012-03-22 16:46

      I don't understand all the thumbs down?

  • Grant - 2012-03-20 11:52

    I miss those 4am games! We'd all travel to my uncle's house, watch the game, and Skottel breakfast afterwards! Man, I miss that!!

      Isaac - 2012-03-20 13:05

      Bring it back i miss those games

      Peter - 2012-03-22 16:46

      Me too!!

  • Zion - 2012-03-20 13:15

    Remember in the 1980's when the bokke toured Australia and New Zealand and played the regional teams. Beating them mostly by nothing less than seventy something. And the rugby commentators were so biased you thought the Bokke were playing against themselves.

  • Gregory - 2012-03-20 13:27

    There is one thing spoiling the game at the moment - refs being too whistle happy - too many penalties and yellow cards due to dubious decisions at scrums and rucks & mauls is killing the flow and quality of the games.Also,the Super Rugby tournament is way too long, they should have kept it the way it was.How is Heyneke going to prepare a Bok team properly to take on England in 5 days in June?This thing of taking a break from Super Rugby to accommodate incoming tours in June and then continuing again afterwards is absolutely ridiculous.

  • Xoli - 2012-03-20 13:45

    Thats your point of view and I respect that, but dont expect all of us to feel the same or at least me..bring on that rugby Molseley is watching something else

  • Trevor - 2012-03-20 13:52

    Silver Fox-spot on and its difficult drinking a cold beer at 4am

      Peter - 2012-03-22 16:47


  • Colin - 2012-03-21 06:38

    Well said. It's been a while since I've read so much truth in the same column. My personal view is that money and prestige wil kill off sport in the long run. It's not a game for people any more. It's a battle between super heroes while the mortals sit and whatch, mostly slightly bored.

      Peter - 2012-03-22 16:49

      But it hasn't killed football - look at the crowds they get. Something else wrong perhaps? I don't know the answer - I agree just too much of it, maybe we should not measure rugby against football - very different games.

  • kobus.conradie - 2012-03-21 08:28

    Absolutely agree. I am sick of teams scoring 3 points when a prop forward' hand slips and he goes down en the scrum engages - what did they do to even deserve points? Nothing! It's ridiculous. I hate watching rolling mauls because any effort to defend it ends in a penalty. The rules at breakdown are so rigid to ensure posession for the attacking team ridiculous we can just as well make the breakdown the same as Rugby League. I used to live, eat, sleep, breath rugby, but honestly, I now find myself more and more switching channels away from S15 to watch Aussie Rule, Soccer, League...ANYTHING where there is ongoing action instead of referee lectures and moronic decisions. Rugby Union as a "spectacle" is dying. Yes I WAS at AAMI Park to shout "Vrystaat" and was thrilled that my team won against the Rebels, but even that game had endless interruptions with probably no more than 50 min of the 80 min playing time. 9Aussie Rules play 80 minutes playing time, so there is a lot more action, and very few rules where the umpire can impact the result of the match.0 In Rugby Union the result is often totally outside the control of the playeres, the refere can go nuts, like that moron in Canberra when the Cheetahs played Brumbies. Rugby League the same - not much that the ref can do to affect the result. Between the overdose of Rugby that Mosely writes about, and the idiotic rules, my beloved Rugby has become a bore...Ek huil sommer in my hanne so mis ek die ou tyd!Kobus, Melbourne

  • danalexsmith - 2012-03-21 16:18

    David, will you let us know when you find a sport worth watching? I grew up feeling enlivened watching a game of rugby. at present I feel tired and frustrated. hopefully this to will change.

  • Des Bothma - 2012-03-22 09:14


      Vaal-Donkie - 2012-03-22 12:21

      1, 2, 3

  • Stephen - 2012-03-22 16:04

    I tend to agree, especially the super long drawn out S15 season, there is just too much rugby, I look at the results and catch some highlights here and there but I don't make a point of "Wow I have to watch that game" anymore, it makes me sad actually.

  • gerald.winkel - 2012-03-31 23:44

    Nothing nicer than looking at Primary Schools (Kaalvoet) Rugby, the do and die varsity cup to shine for the girls, The Currie Cup that still has that traditional, Hannes Brewers, Tiny Neetling, Mannetjies Roux, Syd Nomis and Vinnige Frk Du Preez memoirs and the big boys of super 15. But that bit of magic comes forth from the Vodaco Cup when one of these ripping rebbelles break into the Big time. These the reason: I LOVE MY RUGGA- Primary to professional gaan mal met die bal

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