Grow a backbone

Thu, 13 Oct 2016 14:02

EXCLUSIVE: Eugene Eloff, a two-time former Under-19 World Cup winner, tells the South African Rugby Union bosses to grow a backbone and save the game from ruin.

At the completion of the Rugby Championship season - which included the South Africa's biggest ever loss to the New Zealand - the once proud Springbok is slowly fading into obscurity.

Now we see all and sundry coming up with excuses that just don't make sense, while others are playing the 'blame game'.

All the while the administrators in their little castles and huge egos keep quiet.

As the idiom goes: 'While Rome is burning...'

Come on guys, someone with backbone and integrity must take responsibility, show some guts.

It is you who managed our rugby into this state.

It's scary to think you are actually still earning salaries, and big ones at that - as those flies on the SARU walls keep telling us.

It was your board of 'experts' that appointed the coach, the assistant coaches and management. Actually they also appointed a few other personal in key positions.

If I was the owner or investor of a company (read SARU) that is not performing, lying to the public, playing power games and in the process of doing that stuffing up the company and hurting individuals, I would fire the whole damn lot.

I would start over again with qualified personnel with knowledge, integrity vision and team players.

This does not mean everyone is implicated.

However, as they say, if the shoe fits...

There are certainly a number of sub standard administrators - or untouchables, as two of them indicated one evening at a private party after a few 'lemonades'.

I feel for Allister Coetzee. He is a good man and is now getting a lot of heat from the media, supporters and on social media.

It must be a tough time for him.

However, that is a 'perk' that goes with the job.

Now that I have blown off steam, let's talk about the progress of the game in Austin, Texas - Huns rugby.

What a journey it was.

After 27 hours of flying and being searched at security in Austin for 'biltong', I was collected by our CEO Thierry Daupin (Frenchie).

He immediately put a Stetson hat on my head.


What a amazing experience to see the passionate man with his Huns jersey.

That evening one of our owners, Richard Osborn (Ozzie), took me for a steak at a local Texas restaurant, and we were served by a lady I guess the size of Kobus Wiese - it was so intimidating, but fun.

But, at last, I am working with administrators with integrity, honest open true people who love the game of rugby.

The owner and board allowed me to set up my own coaching staff - so I hand-picked them on merit - using the following criteria: knowledge of the game, experience, passion for the game, integrity/honesty, communication skills and mostly team players with hunger to learn.

If it goes pear shape I will take the responsibility.

As they say: Watch this space.

The next day I went to the field. There was nothing there but two well-manicured fields.

However, I can see the potential. By 2018 we are going to have a state of the art stadium and a professional team and setup.

I am living the American dream, as a South African - well, at the very least an Austin Huns dream.

I had the privilege to watch the Longhorns (Gridiron) team play. What an entertaining experience.

A college match with 92,000 spectators. They are doing something right!

I must admit, for a me it was a long evening - a match of 60 minutes, played over a four-hour period. Eish, lost of eish!

We had a combine (trials) at Huns over two days, where about 69 players - local and from all over the United States - came to try out.

Day one was spent doing testing, evaluation and skills.

Day two we played three matches. And boy oh boy, some of them are raw, but they have great potential.

One guy just finished college. He arrived with his whole life in his car, giving it a go. He was a wing and one of the most athletic guys I have ever seen.

We moved him from wing to flank. In one movement he tackled three guys, got up and returned to action. When he broke the line our quickest wing could not catch him.

We will have a few players in United State national team (USA Eagles) in years to come - all on merit.

We also have those players in South Africa. I have seen them and worked with them.

They just need to be given a fair chance.

I will continue to be a South African, proud of my country and support our rugby, coaches and players.

However, it is time for radical change or we will continue to die the slow death that the game is experiencing.

However, I believe we still have the best junior players in the world. We must nurture them and get a system in place so that they can be top Springboks in future that can threaten any team in the world.

By the way, we should not strategize to beat the Al Blacks. That is narrow minded.

We should focus on fixing the game i South Africa and work on the execution of that plan. Then the results will follow.

May those role players that managed SA rugby into the ground do the amicable and resign. They should be replaced with true rugby people.

By Eugene Eloff