Vodacom Cup is almost an afterthought
In the final instalment of his exclusive interview with legendary Springbok Breyton Paulse, Jan de Koning looks the possible reinvention of the Vodacom Cup.
The Vodacom Cup competition will have 'measurable targets' next year, but this quota system may well do more harm than good.
The South African Rugby Union earlier this year confirmed that in 2014 all 14 provincial teams will be required to pick a minimum of seven black players in their match-day squads, two of whom must be forwards. A minimum of five black players will be required to start.
However, according to Paulse it might be a better idea to reinvent the competition to bring talent through, rather than force quotas upon coaches.
Paulse, in the fourth and final part of his exclusive interview with this website, admitted the SARU decision to implement 'measurable targets' may well be sending the wrong message to players.
He said the Varsity Cup is a very successful model that speaks for itself and a good example of how reinventing the competition helped bring non-white talent through.
"Some really great players came through that [Varsity Cup] on merit," Paulse told this website.
"Take, as an example, Howard Mnisi," he said of the midfielder who played for the lowly Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and then got an offer to join Griquas, adding: "I feel he is a great prospect.
"Most of those guys [in the Varsity Cup] come from good schools.
"I feel we also need to look at the less fortunate and not so strong schools."
Paulse said the Community Cup has a long way to go before it can be relied upon as a vehicle to bring through quality talent.
"It is basically club rugby and an amateur competition," the former Bok flyer said, adding: "I would feel we have to look more at the Varsity Cup [for opportunities].
"As for the Vodacom Cup, more has to be done for that competition.
"The way it has been run the last few years, it is as if it is almost an afterthought. More can be done for the players."
Paulse said that although there is some exposure, in comparison with the Varsity Cup there is simply not that much interest in the second-tier provincial competition.
"Maybe the Vodacom Cup has to be re-invented to ensure the players feel that they are playing in a major competition.
"There has to be more incentives [for the players] in that competition.
"Rather than forced quotas, maybe there could be incentives to bring talented [non-white] players through."
Paulse pointed out that players used to be pulled up from the Vodacom Cup to Super Rugby teams if there were injuries, but in the last few years the growing difference in standards between the two competitions meant Super Rugby franchises looked elsewhere to add to their depth.
"They [SARU] have to create an environment like the Varsity Cup, where everybody want to play [in the] Varsity Cup competition, because there is reward," he said of the number of players who now get pulled into Super Rugby from the Varsity Cup.
"SARU must make it a more attractive competition, where players have the desire to play for a Western Province Vodacom Cup team or the Blue Bulls Vodacom Cup team.
"At the moment that drive is not there. At the moment you get the feeling players are almost reluctant to play [in the] Vodacom Cup [competition].
"They have to find a way to raise the interest and ensure the players don't feel they are quota players. If I feel I'm a quota player, I will lose my desire to play the game.
"It has to be an incentive based system, rather than just a numbers game. It just creates so much confusion and it is so disturbing for everybody - for the white, brown [coloured] and black players.
"All players have a desire to one day play for the Springboks and be in the team on merit.
"All these labels just upset people.
"The players play with passion, for the jersey - that is what drives the players."
Paulse said the system must ensure the Vodacom Cup team is a feeder team for Super Rugby, so they can start pulling players through from there on merit.
"Often you see Super Rugby teams go buy players elsewhere, rather than bring players through from within their own ranks [Vodacom Cup team].
"Look at Western Province, when they had injury problems at hooker, they went and bought players from up north," he said of the decision to loan Lions player Martin Bezuidenhout.
"They do have players and why do those players play for the Vodacom Cup team? That incentive is not there at the moment. Rather than import a couple of Argentinean players, you have to rely on your Vodacom Cup team [as back-up] - you have to have the believe in those players.
"You have to ask: 'What message are you sending out to those [Vodacom Cup] players?'," Paulse concluded.
By Jan de Koning