• Help Support The Rugby Forum :

Is South African Rugby afraid of Rugby League?

RoosTah

First XV
TRF Legend
Joined
May 22, 2004
Messages
2,194
Country Flag

Australia

Club or Nation

Sydney

I had this article sent to me recently about the plight of Rugby League in South Africa, and whilst I know the South Africans aren't into the game, I had no idea they were actively discriminated against at the highest levels:

The plight of SA Rugby League and Sascoc’s bizarre refusal to budge

Rugby League, the 13-man jamboree which prides itself on speed and power and which is immensely popular in Australia, New Zealand and England, is struggling to find an identity in South Africa because of Sascoc’s refusal to accept the sport as something different to rugby union, the traditional 15-man code. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.


To understand the bizarre and baffling situation the South African Rugby League finds itself in, you must first understand its history in this country. Back in the 1960s, a rag-tag group of South Africans travelled to Australia to represent the country in rugby league. Back then, league was one of the first sports that had started to professionalise in England and pay players for their services.


Upon their return, players knew that if they were to ever play league again, they would be banned from playing union. Even kids at school level who were interested in the sport were told that they would not be allowed to play union should they sign up for league.


And so, rugby league was effectively banned. Even back then, this was so typical of rugby’s elitism and a small-mindedness which persists to this day and which is quite evident in the struggles of the South African Rugby League (SARL) trying to be recognised by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc).
...
Since returning to the South African sporting fray in 1994, South African rugby league has struggled to find its identity in the South African sporting landscape. While the governing body has had its administrative ups and downs in the last few years, at the heart of its struggle is Sascoc’s refusal to recognise the sport as a federation separate to rugby union.


Despite rugby union and rugby league being governed by different bodies internationally, they refuse to budge in South Africa. At the heart of the issue is the Sascoc constitution which dictates the recognition of members. Article 8.1.6 says: “Sascoc does not recognise more than one National Sport Federation of a similar or same sport type.â€


Thus Sascoc is saying that rugby league is not currently considered a distinct sport and that, despite it being governed by a different international body, it cannot get independent recognition.


But here is the contradiction: Article 8.1.2 of Sascoc’s constitution says members of “national sports federations affiliated to other major International Federations governing sports presently not included in the programme of the Olympic Games†can also be recognised. Since Rugby League is not an Olympic sport and SARL is affiliated to the Rugby League International Federation, surely it should be recognised independently?


It’s a challenge that has been hindering the sport’s progress for many years and Kobus Botha, the current SARL president, is all too familiar with the battle.


“We’ve had negotiations at all levels. We’ve had discussions with Tubby Reddy (Sascoc), Jurie Roux and Oregan Hoskins (both Saru) on numerous occasions,†he tells the Daily Maverick.


“Sascoc insist that we should fall under Saru which would essentially mean that they would determine what we can and can’t do and which funding we can receive. We even have letters from the IRB stating clearly that we are different, but they cannot make room for us,†he adds.


It is a baffling situation made even more so by the fact that Sascoc seem to contradict themselves in a way. For example, Sascoc recognises ice hockey and hockey separately. Karate and Judo are both recognised separately as members despite both being considered “martial arts†– which is also recognised separately. Even sheep sheering is recognised as a federation.


SARL is a registered sporting association in the country and has support from the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF). At one stage during the ongoing saga, Roux even sent a letter detailing that union and league are two different things, but Sascoc refused to budge. Through all of this, the Department of Sport and Recreation shrug their shoulders saying they cannot give Sascoc any instruction, they can only advise them on a number of aspects.


For SARL, this is an immense challenge and it stops the sport’s development dead in its tracks. Currently, because it is not recognised by Sascoc, SARL cannot receive financial assistance from the government. It can’t be played in schools and corporate support and sponsorship is even harder to come by. Technically, the caps the players earn when playing internationally don’t even count since Sascoc is responsible for awarding national colours to athletes. Those representing South Africa at all events also have to fund these trips themselves. Event rips to World Cups – at junior and senior level – are largely paid out of the pockets of those called up to play. The organisation endorses the applications for bidding and hosting of international events, providing that specific criteria are all met.


Last year, SARL was willing to give up the fight for independent recognition and be absorbed by Saru. While far from ideal, it seemed the only way to go forward.


“We were pushed into that hole because of the refusal to be recognised independently, but to grow the sport, we had no other choice,†Botha says.


Saru and SARL agreed that the two sports would be overseen by one committee while having separate constitutions and created a memorandum of understanding which had to be approved by a two-thirds majority at Saru’s annual general meeting. Botha says Roux had told Botha he was confident of the memorandum of understanding passing, but developments hit another snag.


SARL is not just fighting a battle for independent recognition, but an ongoing court case, with a group of former SARL officials claiming they are actually the recognised governing body of the sport in South Africa also causing a hindrance. This rebel body is not registered or recognised by the RLIF, but Botha says that Roux felt that the vote on the memorandum of understanding could not progress until the court case was settled.


All things considered, it seemed a rather convenient excuse because SARL seems to be fighting against the self-interest and self-preservation of the powers that be in rugby union. Botha says that at one stage during the many years of negotiations – now dragging on for over five years – Hoskins had told SARL that the “financial cake is only so bigâ€. The men in charge of Saru and Sascoc are, of course, big rugby union men and protecting the code is to their financial benefit.


“They see us as a threat. We are the sleeping giants of sport. I think people are getting a bit tired of Rugby Union. So imagine a new sport arrives that’s more exciting than union, people will be intrigued,†Botha says.


He’s not wrong. The 2013 Rugby League World Cup, held in the UK, smashed all records, drawing an aggregate crowd of 458,463 with 74,468 of those being international visitors. There were eight sell-outs and eight stadium record crowds for rugby league matches. Tournament director Nigel Wood confirmed profits of at least £3.7-million with the towns and city that hosted the matches pocketing a pretty penny.


This kind of money can greatly benefit not only the sport of rugby league in South Africa, but also boost the tourism industry. South Africa is already a tourist favourite and becomes even more so when there is an international sporting event for fans to flock to. But without Sascoc’s endorsement, being awarded a World Cup is difficult.


But the fight is not confined to the boardrooms. Union’s elitism has spilled out onto the playing fields too. SARL is recognised by sports councils in both Gauteng and the Western Cape, but Botha says the players have often run into trouble when trying to practise or play.


“We are often bullied by union clubs where we are told that we cannot play here or there because it’s their turf, but these are municipal fields. Saru has even gone so far as to write a letter to Gauteng’s sport’s council telling them they cannot support us,†Botha says.


“Sascoc and Saru have killed us at point blank range,†Botha adds.


A fledgling rugby league in South Africa can only be a good thing for sport. Just last week Saru president Oregan Hoskins bemoaned the overload of professionals in the country’s professional rugby union franchises. A fully functional league system could provide more playing opportunities for professional rugby players as it is not unheard of for players to switch between the two – Sonny Bill Williams being the most famous example of a player who has done so successfully. That Saru and Sascoc are unable to see its value because of its self-interest is a crying shame.*DM
http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/artic.../#.VyZbiHxb_GK

The question is why?

Surely Union is deeply enough entrenched that it won't be under threat from Rugby League, so why be so petty and f##king backward about it? These sort of underhanded attempts to stifle a competitor are the sort of nonsense you'd expect of a corrupt oil state or England in the early 20th century.
 

Ragey Erasmus

International
TRF Legend
Joined
Sep 20, 2011
Messages
7,022
Country Flag

England

Club or Nation

Bath

South Africa is strange, there's your answer.
 

die_mole

First XV
TRF Legend
Joined
Dec 17, 2015
Messages
2,823
Club or Nation

La Rochelle

aren't there similar problems in Russia? and maybe a couple other nations that have the same backwards policy
 

RoosTah

First XV
TRF Legend
Joined
May 22, 2004
Messages
2,194
Country Flag

Australia

Club or Nation

Sydney

aren't there similar problems in Russia? and maybe a couple other nations that have the same backwards policy

Russia and many of the Gulf dictatorships are also similar, yes. I suppose I'd just thought that South Africa was politically less corrupt and home to such petty anti-competitive behaviour than those sorts of kleptocratic dictatorships.
 

RedruthRFC

First XV
TRF Legend
Joined
Nov 29, 2011
Messages
2,209
Country Flag

England

Club or Nation

England

tl;dr

Grutching, maybe they heard about John Hapoate!
 

RoosTah

First XV
TRF Legend
Joined
May 22, 2004
Messages
2,194
Country Flag

Australia

Club or Nation

Sydney

tl;dr

Grutching, maybe they heard about John Hapoate!
John Hopoate? Mate, that's pretty old hat at this point... might as well bring up the Nazis and the Vichy French banning the game in France.

Anyway, if you couldn't be bothered to read it here's the short version: apparently SASOC and the SARU are so terrified of Rugby League's potential to achieve any sort of growth that they outright refuse to accept it's a separate sport from rugby
 

sharkfan

Academy Player
Joined
Oct 12, 2010
Messages
162
Country Flag

South Africa

Always wondered why we cannot be good in both codes, like New Zealand and Australia. I guess a change in mindset is needed. If we can get rugby league going here, I reckon we will be very good at it. Some former rugby union Springboks like, Ray Mordt, Tiaan Strauss, Pieter Muller and Tom van Vollenhoven had a stint with Rugby League earlier in their careers.
 

RoosTah

First XV
TRF Legend
Joined
May 22, 2004
Messages
2,194
Country Flag

Australia

Club or Nation

Sydney

Always wondered why we cannot be good in both codes, like New Zealand and Australia. I guess a change in mindset is needed. If we can get rugby league going here, I reckon we will be very good at it. Some former rugby union Springboks like, Ray Mordt, Tiaan Strauss, Pieter Muller and Tom van Vollenhoven had a stint with Rugby League earlier in their careers.

I have absolutely no doubt South Africa would be very good at Rugby League if the game had been given the opportunity to take off there, still could be one day if it was allowed space to grow its own niche.

That's why it's such a shame to read that it's been so heavily stifled over there. Just like how Union here will never come close to approaching the popularity of Rugby League, League would likely never have gotten close to Union in South Africa even without the discrimination, but South Africa would have at least been competitive.
 

Tallshort

International
TRF Legend
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jul 15, 2011
Messages
6,098
Country Flag

Yugoslavia

Club or Nation

Nottingham

Immensely popular in England?
 

RoosTah

First XV
TRF Legend
Joined
May 22, 2004
Messages
2,194
Country Flag

Australia

Club or Nation

Sydney

Immensely popular in England?

To be fair she did start with Immensely popular in Australia...
Obviously it's not massive in England, but neither is Union really. It's all just soccer and everything else an extraordinarily distant second in your country.
 

Tallshort

International
TRF Legend
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jul 15, 2011
Messages
6,098
Country Flag

Yugoslavia

Club or Nation

Nottingham

So it's not? Glad to clear that up
 

unrated

First XV
TRF Legend
Joined
Dec 9, 2010
Messages
1,614
Country Flag

South Africa

Club or Nation

Sharks

Ive always wondered why we dont play rugby league here. Nothing is REPORTED of it in the media. Must say they have done a good job at keeping it quiet.
I dont know how i feel about this. Not a fan of league but thats because of lack of exposure. We are fighting the boards to keep union going here never mind league who is trying to grow.
 
Last edited:

RoosTah

First XV
TRF Legend
Joined
May 22, 2004
Messages
2,194
Country Flag

Australia

Club or Nation

Sydney

So it's not? Glad to clear that up

Someone's in a snarky mood :rolleyes:

unrated said:
Ive always wondered why we dont play rugby league here. Nothing is REPORTED of it in the media. Must say they have done a good job at keeping it quite.
I dont know how i feel about this. Not a fan of league but thats because of lack of exposure. We are fighting the boards to keep union going here never mind league who is trying to grow.

From what I understand they've had trouble getting the sort of government assistance and recognition most other sports take for granted for decades now.

I mean I know in Britain they had an almost pathological prejudice against Rugby League in the Union regions and old boys networks that saw plenty of discrimination there, but England was home to the original split and that was all about the wealthy wanting to keep working class people in their place.

That direct history never happened among the two codes in South Africa, so you'd think they'd be more reasonable.
 

Tallshort

International
TRF Legend
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jul 15, 2011
Messages
6,098
Country Flag

Yugoslavia

Club or Nation

Nottingham

Someone's in a snarky mood :rolleyes:



From what I understand they've had trouble getting the sort of government assistance and recognition most other sports take for granted for decades now.

I mean I know in Britain they had an almost pathological prejudice against Rugby League in the Union regions and old boys networks that saw plenty of discrimination there, but England was home to the original split and that was all about the wealthy wanting to keep working class people in their place.

That direct history never happened among the two codes in South Africa, so you'd think they'd be more reasonable.

What a load of crap.

One day you just might wake up to the fact that the reason league is not as popular as union in lots of places is because less people want to watch it.

Or you could carry on down the "oh we are so repressed by those nasty union people" path but it's not got you anywhere in recent years and in aus you should be more worried about football
 

RoosTah

First XV
TRF Legend
Joined
May 22, 2004
Messages
2,194
Country Flag

Australia

Club or Nation

Sydney

What a load of crap.

One day you just might wake up to the fact that the reason league is not as popular as union in lots of places is because less people want to watch it.

Or you could carry on down the "oh we are so repressed by those nasty union people" path but it's not got you anywhere in recent years and in aus you should be more worried about football

Ah! Now he's engaging with more than just singular snarky pot shots!

Tallshort,

I know you don't like to think there was ever any prejudice against the game in the UK, but there are many many accounts that back up this as being a fact. We're talking about a country that used to ban players from ever being able to play Union again if found guilty of playing the dreaded 13 man game - a practice that still occurred as recently as the 1980s.

Indeed, even your world cup winning coach Clive Woodward has spoken about how he now looks back in embarrassment at how instinctively cautious he was even to speak to a Rugby League person; an attitude he admits he felt embarrassed of when he came to play Rugby in Australia, where League and Union players freely associated.

As for your soccer point. It's a problem for union, but soccer is really just a game for immigrants and posh white kids who don't possess the balls for Rugby in Australia. They're an odd bunch really, but it explains why the game's TV ratings have fallen 10% in the last year whilst the NRL and AFL continue to grow and dominate (for reference the all important A-League soccer grand final on the weekend just barely scraped over 500k viewers, whilst an NRL round robin match barely a third into the season got over a million). Also, with the latest Super Rugby TV deal, soccer has again fallen to 4th on our football codes list in terms of funding.

In any case though, I don't get why you're being so hostile about this when we're talking about bloody South Africa to begin with lol
 
Last edited:

Tallshort

International
TRF Legend
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jul 15, 2011
Messages
6,098
Country Flag

Yugoslavia

Club or Nation

Nottingham

Of course they banned players in the 80's all the home unions were worried that their best players were being offered professional contacts and they feared a player drain particularly when you consider league was on the TV far more in the 80's than union was. It was ironic that in the end it was one factor in accelerating Union to becoming professional and then everyone in league started complaining about the player drain to union because the TV companies rightly saw union as potentially the bigger game.

Now the only drain from Super league is NFL who poach all the best young English talent.

Regards SA the whole sports structure there is a basket case so it's hardy difficult to trawl though and find something you don't agree with
 

RoosTah

First XV
TRF Legend
Joined
May 22, 2004
Messages
2,194
Country Flag

Australia

Club or Nation

Sydney

The player drain was an issue in Australia too obviously, but Union realised it wasn't in a position to do much about it I suppose and the whole notion of banning players who associated was abandoned long ago.

For the record, I'm not absolving the RFL in the UK of any responsibility; League in the UK since Union went pro seems like a basket case from the outside looking in and ironically seems to have fallen folly of the same mistakes that Union have made in Australia; namely limiting their presence too much to pay TV and not investing sufficiently ing properly engage supporters beyond their base.

All the same, League in England is still a richer game with more talent to choose from the Union is here in spite of that.
 

Tallshort

International
TRF Legend
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jul 15, 2011
Messages
6,098
Country Flag

Yugoslavia

Club or Nation

Nottingham

Sorry don't get the last sentence
 

RoosTah

First XV
TRF Legend
Joined
May 22, 2004
Messages
2,194
Country Flag

Australia

Club or Nation

Sydney

Sorry don't get the last sentence

Rugby League in England generates more money and has a larger player pool than Union has in Australia. Basically, for all the problems League has in the UK they've been better at maintaining their base than Union has here.

The topic of the mismanagement, poor investment choices and lack of strategic vision from the ARU is a massive one though, so if I go into why we'll be here all day.
 

TRF_heineken

RIP #J9
Staff member
TRF Legend
TRF Supporter
Joined
Apr 9, 2010
Messages
11,898
Country Flag

South Africa

Club or Nation

South Africa

The OP is a very narrow-minded report from just one side of the coin. And with that said, I can understand their point of view and frustration. But let's get a few facts straight here right away.

1. SASCOC is the crappiest organization in the Sporting world. Why the Rugby League would go to them in the first place, is just stupid. SASCOC has had financial troubles since its inception and has been marred by controversy. They have too much on their plate and can't handle all the codes that wants/needs affiliation.

2. SARU should be the go-to organisation for league. While also being marred by controversy (Jurie Roux), they still manage to be financially strong and has been able to assist struggling clubs and unions (EP Kings).

3. Rugby League is mostly being played at universities and amateur clubs. I'm sure it may be attractive to some people, but in the bigger picture, I don't see it ever being in the same category as Union. Watching rugby league in SA is almost unheard of. You will only be able to catch a glimpse of it every 4 hours on one channel (Supersport Blitz) when they tune into Sky Sports News. Other than that, if people want to watch it, they'll have to go online to view it.

4. The SA Rhinos (that's what our national league team is called), hasn't exactly been so forthcoming as the article might suggest. One of my friends used to play for them while he was at varsity, and he frequently got false or wrong information about upcoming matches or tournaments. He eventually quit league because of the poor management at the Rhinos.

5. I don't see how League will ever be introduced at school levels. We're already struggling to get Rugby and Soccer at most schools and to adhere to the government's requirements. Getting another code into the mix will just make the already volatile situation even worse. To add to that, it's very hard to see youngsters getting into the game. They have zero exposure and no role models to look up to. They won't go home to their parents and say "daddy, one day I want to play for the rhinos"...

Afraid of Rugby League? Seriously?? What a stupid question. We have a lot bigger problems in the world of sport than this crap. And League will unfortunately be getting the short stick for a while, as we're trying to sort the big issues out first.
 
Top