Tony McKeever

When good rugby goes bad for R3m


You might ask what do the Springboks and Stuart Tinner have in common.

If your answer is £250 000 (about R3.1 million) you would be right.

Each received £250 000 for last night’s performance and some may argue that Tinner showed more talent. Tinner by the way is the chap, who in his socks, kicked a 30m punt that landed on the crossbar in a half-time competition at the Springboks vs Saracens game.

The story behind the Springboks rights fee of £250 000 for playing the Saracens is an entirely different and even scarier one as it shows how good rugby goes bad for £250 000.

It started in July when the acting managing director of SA Rugby, Andy Marinos, recommended and advised SA Rugby that they earn a rights fee of £250 000 for each of the Leicester and Saracens mid-week matches and that these games be considered not as “emerging Springbok” games but as fully-fledged “Springbok” games.

Quite apart from devaluing and pricing the intellectual property of the Springboks match 22 and management team at the bargain-basement price of £250 000, to play at Wembley, arguably the world’s best rugby stadium, he suggested that this would “prevent the loss of talented potential Springboks to other countries” and that this would have an “impact on the RWC 2011 squad”.

Marinos went on to say that he “considered it imperative that SA Rugby builds up a pool of Springboks for 2011 RWC” and so on Marinos’s recommendation and insistence SA Rugby got suckered right royally in the boardroom and on the pitch these past two weeks.

Gate receipts from the Wembley match alone, against Saracens last night, were more than £5 million to Saracens. On the other hand, SA Rugby, for their efforts, walked away with less than 5% of this and a black eye of note for losing 24-23 to the South African point scorers of Brad Barritt, Ernst Joubert and Derick Hougaard in the Saracens side. The humiliation is unfathomable especially with the All Blacks, Australians, England, France, Wales, Scotland and Italian rugby unions and their national squads, ever present in Europe for the IRB-sanctioned end-of-year tours and all their respective supporters, on alert.

The losses to Leicester Tigers and to Saracens by a Springbok side, on an end-of-year tour goes way beyond the score board and is not the fault of Peter de Villiers and his Springbok management team, but that of the decision made in July by Marinos, which set in motion this sequence of events and outcomes.

Consequently, the Springbok brand value has plummeted and has signalled it is available at these bargain-basement rights fees, then the team has tumbled from the IRB’s number one slot on the leader board to number two and now De Villiers and the entire Springbok squad are on the back foot waiting to take on the bloodlust and feeding frenzy of the Italians on Saturday and the Irish next week.

This is a nightmare from hell, exposing all sorts of vulnerabilities at SA Rugby, dealing with all sorts of crisis from the Toulouse Rasta wailing, to financial losses and all because this was set in motion in July by what can only be kindly termed, “a well-intentioned but extremely naive recommendation” that SA Rugby will rue through to the 2011 Rugby World Cup, as long as the inmates are running the asylum.

Next up is Nick Mallett and Declan Kidney. Italy and Ireland have signalled that they are ready and willing to also claim a Springbok scalp.