for quality writing

Ken Borland



Sanzaar have forgotten the importance of tournament integrity 0

Posted on July 31, 2017 by Ken

 

There is a forgotten early-1980s pop star by the name of Jona Lewie, a rather avant garde electro-pop musician who just happens to be one of my all-time favourites. Perhaps songs like Stop the Cavalry, You’ll always find me in the kitchen at parties and Louise will jog the memory because they were all big hits in South Africa.

But apart from those hits, Lewie also wrote a more classical piece entitled Rearranging the Deckchairs on the Titanic, which is all about making changes to something which are always doomed to be futile.

I was thinking about that piece when SuperRugby’s regular season came to an end last weekend and the Cheetahs and Kings played their final games, while the critically endangered Western Force made a statement of their own by hammering the Waratahs, the favourite sons of Australian rugby.

Sanzaar have not only forgotten the high standards and norms that made Super Rugby the greatest competition in rugby but have also shifted away from one of the cornerstones of any successful sporting endeavour and that is the integrity of the competition.

There is no doubt that the current iteration of SuperRugby is not a hit and it is rapidly losing value, while costs have escalated by bringing in extra teams, especially the expansion sides from Japan and Argentina.

I believe it is always a good thing to be inclusive, though, and the problem with SuperRugby is not so much the number of teams participating but the totally farcical nature of the tournament itself.

It is guaranteed to cause disdain amongst a sports’ customers – the people who watch it – when a team like the Brumbies, who won just six of their 15 conference matches, gets to host a quarterfinal, like they did on Friday against the Hurricanes. Even the people of Canberra didn’t seem enamoured by the idea, given the poor crowd that was present.

There is no integrity to the competition because lesser-performing teams are advantaged and not everyone plays each other – not having to face any New Zealand sides is clearly a massive advantage.

So cutting the number of teams but keeping the same competition format is clearly merely rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic and is not going to stop SuperRugby from sinking into the depths of history.

And, let’s be honest, the axing of teams like the Kings, Cheetahs and possibly Force is not about their competitiveness. Sport is not only about those teams that are consistently winning, part of the romance are the wonderful stories of the underdogs causing shock upsets.

The Kings and Force, having won just as many games as the Brumbies, who made the finals, can argue that they are not even minnows, while the Cheetahs finished above the safe Bulls in the final standings.

The fact that the Kings and the Cheetahs will now ply their trade in Europe will have far-reaching consequences. With much easier travelling schedules and no country as dominant as New Zealand, I’m sure SA Rugby will discover the grass is greener in the northern hemisphere.

If South Africa pull out of SuperRugby entirely, it will definitely hurt New Zealand because it was our viewership numbers that fetched top dollar with the broadcasters, and without their share of that bigger pool, the All Blacks will find it increasingly more difficult to stop European teams from raiding their best players.

If Sanzaar are to have any hope of saving SuperRugby, they have to sort out the format and somehow come up with something that is going to ensure the integrity of the competition as well as be easier to understand for the average fan.

The current format was largely brought in to ensure bigger interest in Australia, but for how much longer will New Zealand rugby be willing to carry their neighbours across the ditch?

Organisers learning the hard way about tournament integrity 0

Posted on April 26, 2016 by Ken

 

The organisers of the Varsity Cup rugby tournament look set to learn the hard way that, in order for followers to remain invested in their product, the integrity of a sporting competition is most important.

By “integrity” I mean that the way the tournament is run and governed has to be seen to be giving all the competing teams an equal chance, a level playing field. Like English Premier League football, where every team plays the others home and away and the top team on the log wins the trophy.

For students, the Varsity Cup has been a breath of fresh air, a place to hang out with your bros and, no doubt, check out the ladies, all accompanied by typically student quantities of alcohol. But for the organisers, the real target has always been television, where the big money is, hence their decision to play matches this year off-campus.

And for television viewers, a level playing field will be more important than any of the many gimmicks they have come up with in terms of rule-changes. Perhaps Varsity Sports should have paid more attention to simplifying their complex eligibility rules than to coming up with weird and wonderful law variations that, frankly, make me consider the Varsity Cup to be the IPL of South African sport.

The allegation that Pukke had an ineligible player on the park while they beat Maties in the showpiece final is obviously a PR disaster. But it was made even worse because Varsity Sports had already made their bed by earlier slapping an extremely harsh 12-point penalty on the UKZN Impi for the same technical offence – both teams having had their players cleared by the tournament-appointed auditors, KPMG – ensuring that the KwaZulu-Natalians, who have dominated the Varsity Shield for two seasons, no longer had any chance of promotion.

The harsh decision, which their advocate presciently warned was creating a dangerous precedent, caused further disgruntlement for a side that had been forced to play some of their home matches at the ground of their biggest rivals, Wits, albeit because of the unrest that was sweeping university campuses.

UKZN were already feeling like they weren’t really wanted in the big league and there were even allegations from elsewhere in the country that Varsity Sports wanted to ensure foundation members UCT and Wits were in the Varsity Cup, partly because of the cost of playing games in the relatively-isolated province of KwaZulu-Natal.

Whether they remain consistent and strip Pukke of the title or reinstate UKZN, the Varsity Cup management are in a quandary, their failure to run the tournament in a professional manner having been exposed.

But they are not the only ones.

Sanzaar just don’t seem able to settle on a SuperRugby format that will work, with the current competition clearly lopsided in favour of some teams. Some sides don’t have to play the top teams from last year, while some franchises, like the Bulls and Stormers, don’t even have to tour New Zealand, while the Lions and Sharks do.

A competition that was confusing before has become even more complex and unfair, alienating supporters.

Social media was alive this week with another example of an organisation that is playing fast and loose with the integrity of the game – Cricket Australia.

The first day/night Test against New Zealand last November was not an overwhelming success, whatever CA have been saying in the many propaganda press releases they have sent out this week. It was all over in three days, which rather nullifies the commercial advantages because of two days of lost television coverage, and the views of the players involved was hardly one of unbridled enthusiasm.

The problems with seeing the pink ball once it becomes worn meant the Adelaide Oval pitch was a grassy seamer, and 224 was the highest innings total.

AB de Villiers was quite right to point out that the prior experience Australia have of playing in those conditions was a massive advantage, especially in the potentially decisive final Test of the series, at that level where the margins are so small. Perhaps they’re trying to pull a fast one because South Africa was triumphant in the last two Test tours Down Under?

It would be akin to the Springboks being asked to play a Test with a new scrum rule they had never played under.

The concept of day/night Test cricket is a good one, but I have a feeling it will only work if the white clothes go and a white ball is used.

No super over calls integrity of entire RamSlam T20 Challenge into question 0

Posted on January 01, 2015 by Ken

The integrity of the entire RamSlam T20 Challenge competition was called into question at SuperSport Park yesterday when the Unlimited Titans and the Chevrolet Warriors tied their rain-affected match, but were denied the chance to play for full points in a super over due to the shortcomings of the playing conditions.

The fact that both teams have to settle for two points is obviously unsatisfactory when one considers their precarious positions at the bottom of the log and the fact that all other tied matches in the competition have had super overs in order for one team to get the four win points. Neither team were aware that there would not be a tie-breaker.

Match referee Barry Lambson confirmed that the playing conditions did not allow for a super over to be played “due to time constraints” as the start of the match was delayed by two-and-a-half hours because of rain. This time, the all-pervasive influence of television was not to blame as they found time for a televised presentation after a string of advertisements.

The chances of playing at all looked remote at the scheduled starting time of 12pm, but by the end of the match the weather had totally cleared up, although metaphorically a cloud will remain over the game.

The eight-overs-a-side match featured perfect final overs by both Rusty Theron and David Wiese.

Wiese’s was the more impressive because it secured the tie for the Titans after they had unravelled in the field in the sixth and seventh overs, leaving the Warriors with just six runs to win off the last six balls.

Wiese made the perfect start by removing Simon Harmer (24 off 13) off the first ball and Jon-Jon Smuts, who had anchored the chase with 37 off 22 balls, was then run out off the second ball after confusion with Yaseen Vallie and a pinpoint throw from the outfield by Eden Links.

Vallie and Theron could only manage three singles, plus there was a wide, leaving the Warriors to score one run off the last ball to win. But with wicketkeeper Heinrich Klaasen standing up and making a fine take, Wiese beat Theron outside off stump to snatch a share of the spoils for the Titans.

The Titans had posted 79 for five in their eight overs after being sent in to bat, and looked well on course to defend that when they restricted the Warriors to 39 for three after five overs. But a host of errors in the sixth and seventh overs, including Harmer being dropped as Shaun von Berg and Theunis de Bruyn collided in the covers, changed the course of the match.

Captain Darren Sammy also contributed a fine over, conceding eight that included an edged boundary, Ethy Mbhalati again bowled skilfully and Junior Dala delivered a brilliant first over, that cost just one run and included the wicket of Warriors captain Colin Ingram (4).

Henry Davids had given the Titans innings a positive start as he scored 23 off 11 balls, hammering three fours and a six off Basheer Walters in the second over before the bowler had the last say, having him caught in the covers.

But the Titans run-rate then nose-dived as Aya Gqamane, brought on to bowl the fifth over, removed Wiese (1) and De Bruyn (16) with his first two balls and spinner Smuts was bang on target as well.

Theron conceded just four runs in the last over and trapped Sammy lbw for 16 as he showed the sort of skills that suggest he perhaps should be performing again on a higher stage.

 



↑ Top