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Ken Borland



Rule-bound IRB criticised for Cyprus exclusion 0

Posted on July 03, 2017 by Ken

 

The International Rugby Board (IRB) has been accused of being more concerned with rules and regulations than actually growing the game in the wake of Cyprus’s exclusion from the European qualifiers for the 2015 World Cup.

In the last four-and-a-half years, Cyprus have stormed through the lower echelons of European rugby, winning 19 consecutive Tests – more than any other team in the history of the game – on their way to the top of Nations Cup Division 2C (effectively the sixth division).

But their ultimate dream – that of playing in the World Cup qualifiers – has been denied them due to the fact that the tiny, football-mad island does not have enough rugby teams.

Quite how the country – in the midst of a financial crisis much like Greece’s – is meant to develop more rugby teams when the IRB are closing down their opportunities is difficult to fathom.

Cyprus’s problem is that they have less than the four teams (the IRB don’t count the British Army sides based on the island, which is ridiculous) required for associate membership of the IRB. And a country has to be an associate member for at least two years before they can become full members. Only full members are allowed to participate in World Cup qualifiers.

“The IRB certainly don’t want to stand in the way of Cyprus, we will assist them and try to encourage rugby there. We have 117 members so we don’t want to exclude anyone. But the rules are to ensure quality control and they are the criteria agreed by the members,” IRB spokesman James Fitzgerald told the Daily Maverick.

“Cyprus can’t be included in World Cup qualifiers until they’ve been associates for two years and then they have to apply for full member status.

“They don’t fulfil the criteria in terms of the number of teams – for national 15s rugby you need at least four teams. They are moving towards that, but that competition won’t start until September. To be a full member, you need 10 teams.”

Critics of the IRB decision have pointed out that both Greece and the United Arab Emirates were given full membership due to “extenuating circumstances”.

“Greece fulfil the core criteria but have had financial problems, therefore they were given consideration as a special case,” Fitzgerald explained, while the UAE were fast-tracked due to the collapse of the previous Arabian Gulf Rugby Football Union and the strategic importance of the region.

These rules don’t take into account the fact that Cyprus rugby is in a stronger state than in countries like Slovenia and Luxembourg, both of whom will take part in World Cup qualifying. Because Cyprus are four levels below serious potential European qualifiers like Georgia, Russia, Romania and Portugal, there is little chance of them keeping anyone out of the showpiece event, but they should at least be allowed to chance their arm at the highest level of the game.

The qualifiers start in four days’ time on May 4 so even if the IRB relent in the face of public pressure and give Cyprus membership, it is probably too late for them to take part in the 2015 tournament.

The IRB will be meeting this week and South African Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins, who is the vice-chairman of the IRB, believes the game’s governing body can make exceptions to their rules.

“There’s a crucial meeting and I’m certain it will be up for discussion. Cyprus form a part of Fira, the European governing body, and they do have a representative in the council, Octavian Morariu, a Romanian.

“Countries can be exempt from the regulations if there are extenuating circumstances. Every law can be bent, I like to think, if there’s a very good case for it,” Hoskins told the Daily Maverick.

“We’ve made exceptions before in South Africa, for instance with clubs that didn’t have five teams but their rugby was so good that we let them play in the premier leagues. Some clubs have so few players, but because of the quality of those players they should not be penalised.

“If countries make a good case, a compelling argument, then rugby’s attitude is pragmatic,” Hoskins said.

“The Cyprus Rugby Federation regrets that the IRB has taken this decision which we believe will have severe and detrimental effects on Cyprus rugby, especially due to the economic and continuous crisis that has affected the nation recently,” Lawrence Vasiliades, the president of the CRF, said.

Hopefully a plan can be made because rugby will certainly be the loser if one of the great fairy tales of the game’s history is allowed to wither away, denied the chance to compete on the highest stage. Cyprus in the World Cup qualifiers would be a wonderful advertisement for the IRB’s efforts to develop the sport all over the world.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-04-30-rule-bound-irb-tackled-over-cyprus-exclusion/#.WVo8hoSGPIU

Lorgat’s resignation understandable, but his denial is baffling 0

Posted on February 01, 2017 by Ken

 

Cricket South Africa CEO Haroon Lorgat’s sense of resignation when it comes to the exodus of Kolpak players is understandable given the socio-economic factors that are ranged against him, but his continued denial that anything untoward happened before the 2015 World Cup semi-final is baffling and most troubling.

His own involvement in the selection fiasco that saw the in-form Kyle Abbott yanked from the team and replaced by a half-fit Vernon Philander has still not been totally clarified, but I would be extremely surprised if he was not acting on an ill-timed instruction from board level.

But just mention the 2015 World Cup semi-final and selection interference and Lorgat has his hackles up in an instant.

It happened again in Cape Town after the Proteas had won their Test against Sri Lanka to clinch the series,  their achievement totally overshadowed by the shock news that Abbott and Rilee Rossouw were shifting their loyalty to lucrative deals in county cricket.

When Abbott faced up to the media he was asked whether that fateful event in Auckland had anything to do with his decision to give up his international career, and he answered sincerely, saying there had been a lot of frustration, hurt and anger at the time, but that the team – including himself – had dealt with and moved on from all their negative emotions from that incident at their culture camp last August.

Lorgat was next up to be interviewed and, as soon as someone mentioned the words “World Cup semi-final”, they were scolded and the CEO launched into a tirade against the media for making things up. When one of the journalists, of colour, who happened to be at the World Cup and had done plenty to expose the selection shenanigans, pointed out to Lorgat that Abbott had sat in the same chair five minutes earlier and openly spoken about the issue, the CEO had to retreat and offered words along the lines of “I don’t want to talk about that now”.

But like reticent parents avoiding the sex-education talk, Lorgat is going to have to speak about it at some stage.

And the CSA National Team Review Panel report, that will be tabled before the members’ council on Saturday might just be the tool that gets Lorgat to open up, unless of course the relevant pages are lost somewhere in the toilets at head office at the Wanderers.

There has been talk of the report recommending that CSA and the board apologise to the players for what happened in Auckland. There is no confirmation of that, but I have it on record from someone who has read the findings that under the Team Culture section it indicates that it’s “strongly recommended that interaction happens either individually or in a group between players and senior members of the board and support staff”.

Speaking to members of the panel, none of them wanted to create anything controversial and all they hope is that something good comes out of their work.

The introduction of set targets has obviously helped because now the quotas are out in the open; but amongst the players there is still the lingering fear of an administrator again deciding to take the job of a selector upon himself and interfering in the make-up of the team.

The bungling of the transformation aspect of the 2015 World Cup needs to be put to bed – otherwise imagine how septic a boil it will be in the lead-up to 2019? – and an acknowledgement and apology from Lorgat for his role in the controversy would be a big step along that road.

Sharks eager to start new era of success in 2016 – Gold 0

Posted on November 12, 2015 by Ken

 

 

The Sharks will be eager to put a torrid 2015 behind them as they begin pre-season training for 2016, director of rugby Gary Gold saying they will be looking to start a new era of success for the KwaZulu-Natal side.

“Everyone’s had a good break so now we need to hit the ground running. I hope this young side will be energetic and enthusiastic, because I see this as a new era and I’m certainly excited, keen to put the last year behind us as quickly as possible,” Gold told The Citizen before the Sharks started their pre-season training on Tuesday.

Despite his optimism, Gold conceded that there would be no quick-fix solution to the problems that bedevilled the Sharks in 2015, which saw them finish 11th in Super Rugby and fifth in the Currie Cup.

“It’s very important to make it clear that we won’t be making any excuses, our performance simply wasn’t good enough, especially for a franchise as big as the Sharks. But an era was coming to an end, we lost a lot of stalwarts and it’s not ideal having four coaches in 18 months at the same time. Change hit us hard and we also had insurmountable injuries, but the bottom line is that the performance was poor,” Gold said.

While Gold is firmly in the camp that favours South African rugby moving forward towards a more free-flowing style, he says defence will be the focus in terms of their Super Rugby preparations.

“Of course I want us to be more of a threat with ball in hand, but defence is the foundation of every good team. I know it’s not romantic, but you learn a lot about a team by how hard they work for each other in defence. We were substantially better in the Currie Cup, our points difference of only -8 shows that, but we need to put pressure on the opposition through our defence.

“A lot of tries these days still come from turnovers, mistakes and poor kicks, and we need to try and force those through our defence. But we also need to be more clever and, strategically, to think more out of the box. Robert du Preez [the new assistant coach] also ticks a lot of boxes for us, he’s a hard taskmaster and there are no half-measures with him,” Gold said.

 

Oh for competent officials! 0

Posted on October 27, 2015 by Ken

 

SuperRugby completes the first month of its 2015 season this weekend and it’s not surprising, given the generally low standard of officiating, that the referees and their assistants have been in the spotlight this week.

There has been furious debate about whether the laws of the game were correctly applied at Loftus Versfeld last weekend when the Bulls beat the Sharks; and there is uproar steadily building as well over referee Nick Briant’s performance yesterday in Hamilton, especially towards the end of the Highlanders’ shock win over the Chiefs.

The Loftus Versfeld furore was mostly about Law 12 – the knock-on or throw forward, but perhaps the way to avoid these controversies that do serious damage to the game (nobody wants to watch a sport where the officials decide the outcome rather than the athletes) is to go to Law 6.

This law is about the Match Officials, but nowhere does it say they have to be competent!

In the white-hot arena of top-class rugby, mistakes will inevitably happen and nobody should crucify referees over those. But when a person sitting in a box in the stands gets several replays of an incident and still can’t make the correct decision, then questions need to be asked. The problem is that officials are way above the law and there is no accountability; their decisions never have to be explained. It’s a prime breeding ground for matchfixing, but WorldRugby is in denial of that as well.

The forward pass incident at Loftus has been dressed up as a technical issue involving the direction of the hands being obscured at the time of Jesse Kriel’s pass. TMO Johan Greeff believed the evidence was inconclusive, never mind the ball clearly travelling metres forward on its way to Francois Hougaard. It was such an obvious forward pass that most people picked it up while watching the game live.

If TMOs are going to be seen to have made the correct decision, which is the whole point of having them, then they are going to have to ditch this whole obsession with which direction the hands were going at the time of the pass. None of that technical mumbo jumbo, nothing about gravity or momentum, is even mentioned in the laws of rugby.

Obviously momentum is going to cause a ball to drift forward if the player who passes it is running, but this cannot result in the sort of forward pass Kriel threw to Hougaard.

“A throw forward occurs when a player throws or passes the ball forward. ‘Forward’ means towards the opposing team’s dead ball line,” is all Law 12 states. It’s simple but for several years now officials have conspired to complicate the whole issue with all this talk of “the direction of the hands”.

While they are at it, the lawmakers should also make the ruck laws simpler because, as things stand in this era of “interpretation”, the World Cup final is probably going to be decided by who the referee is.

It cannot be good for the game that the Bulls can have a referee one week (Andrew Lees) who barely blew anything at the ruck and the next week be officiated by somebody who blows to the letter of the law.

Nobody wants to have a game dominated by the officials, but they currently have way too much influence on the result and spectators have started to desert rugby as a result.

 



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