SA Rugby boss denies death of provincialism

Jurie Roux (Gallo)
Jurie Roux (Gallo)

Cape Town - SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux has denied that the constitutional changes announced on Friday spell the death of provincialism in the country's rugby structures. 

There was a lot to take in after a press conference at Newlands last Friday, when Roux and SA Rugby president Mark Alexander announced a host of changes to the way the game is run in the country. 

The biggest of the changes, it seems, is that the General Council has lost its power to the Executive Council when it comes to making major rugby decisions. 

The General Council is now made up of nine members - another change announced on Friday - but all 14 unions are still represented. 

Key decisions can now be taken without the majority consent of the unions. 

It was also revealed that the smaller unions will be viewed as 'semi-professional', and the formation of a franchise committee and a non-franchise committee drew a line in the sand between the professional and non-professional unions. 

The running of the professional game in South Africa - contracts, the management of Springbok players, coaching methods, conditioning, decisions on competition structure - would all be handled by the franchise committee while the non-franchise committee would be tasked with facilitating a high standard of club rugby and ensuring that a constant flow of players make their way into the professional ranks. 

Private shareholders can now also own up to 74% of a union as opposed to the 49.9% that was the previous restriction, meaning that the commercial arms of unions could now be minority shareholders in the union itself. 

When one factors in potential changes to the Currie Cup format and a proposed seven-team competition in 2017, and the fact that there could only be just one union outside of the six franchise unions playing in the Premier Division, then the focus appears to be very clearly on improving the franchises.

On Friday, it raised the question: Is this the death of provincialism in South African rugby? 

Roux was adamant that it was not. 

"If we ever lose provincialism in rugby we're probably finished because we are tribal, but hopefully we lose (provincialism) that in the decision making," Roux said.

"That’s the whole idea. We sit around a table, we discuss the issues and we make a decision within that focused area of our business for the greater good of rugby."

Roux acknowledged that the constitutional amendments might not be easy for the unions to adjust to, but he applauded them for accepting that these were changes that needed to be made for the benefit of South African rugby.

"People are always afraid of change and change is difficult," said Roux.

"Sometimes things happen on the field and in other places that just force you into change.

"In the end, I think people made a decision in the best interest of South African rugby.

"Some people had to make fairly hard decisions that could be deemed in their own constituency to not be in the interest of the union but in the interest of South African rugby as a whole. I’ve got a great amount of respect for people standing up today."

The other major change in terms of competition structure concerns the Currie Cup qualifying tournament. 

Roux said that an "exciting" announcement on that front would be made in due course, and that is expected to be a decision that has a major say in what 2017 will look like for the unions. 

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