At a media launch, this morning Willen Strauss, President of the Blue Bulls Rugby Union has once again shown why he is such a success as a rugby administrator. He announced the Volcano Super League Under 20 Competition in Blue Bull country. With the demise of u/20 rugby in South Africa, the Blue Bulls is creating new opportunities for forgotten schoolboy rugby players to force their way back into ever decreasing professional opportunities.
This tournament will be played on Thursday evenings at Loftus with all 52 contracted Blue Bulls junior players forced to play. These juniors will have the choice to join any of the 7 teams for the duration of the tournament.
Although this development is exciting personally I do have some "serious" doubts which could derail the "romantic" intentions of this new pathway. I will discuss this below the press release as issued.
" The Volcano Super League Under 20 Competition will kick-off on 06 April 2019 in a strength versus strength competition where the leading seven Under 20 club teams of the Blue Bulls Rugby Union will be in action.
The President of the Blue Bulls rugby Union, Mr Willem Strauss, announced that more than 50 junior contracted players will participate in this league. “The Under 20 Super League will create a platform for contracted and club players to participate with and against one another for the first time in more than two decades in the Blue Bulls Rugby Union structure.”
He added that at the age of 18 or 19 the difference between contracted and non-contracted players are still marginal and that this creates the opportunity for non-contracted players to prove themselves as potential professional players. For the contracted players this is an opportunity to become better rugby players “because you can only become a better rugby player by playing rugby” says Mr Strauss.
The Volcano Under 20 Super League will form part of the future Vodacom Blue Bulls Project of which more detail will be announced in a couple of weeks. The future Blue Bulls project is aimed at creating an additional pipeline and pathway for players and coaches to the provincial, and even professional structures of the Blue Bulls. The SARU Under 19 competition this year, will not be played on a league basis, but as a tournament at the end of the season.
Some of the players that will play in the league are Diego Appollis (SA Under 18 Sevens and SA Schools 2019); Dawid Kellerman (SA Under 18 Sevens); Ross Braude (SA Under 18 Sevens) and Louwan Horn (SA Under 18 Sevens).
The seven participating teams are UP Tuks, UP Tuks 2, Naka Bulls, QBR, Pretoria, Centurion and Tuine. According to Marco van Staden, Vodacom Bulls and Springbok flanker, the tournament is a brilliant concept. “In grade 11, I was still playing for Hoërskool Bekker as a scrumhalf. I then joined the Tuks club structures through which I was identified and promoted to the Blue Bulls squads.” Marco received his first contract before last year’s Super Rugby Campaign and a couple of months later he was selected for the Springboks. According to Mr Strauss him and his Management Team hopes that the Volcano Under 20 Super League and Future Blue Bulls Project will unearth many more “Marco van Stadens”.
The Volcano Under 20 Super League finals will be the main curtain raiser for the Vodacom Bulls vs Xerox Lions game on 15 June 2019. Most of the league fixtures will take place at Loftus Versfeld on Thursday evenings during the season."
As stated above I do have some "serious" doubts:
- Rugby in South Africa and elsewhere have already gained the label as the sport for the rich and influential. With most of the clubs already operating Rugby Academies, one has to seriously question the commitment of these clubs to give players who are not able to afford the Academy's fees a fair chance to compete in this series. Will their promises to their paying clients outweigh the moral obligation to a talented youngster.
- Unfortunately, academies have already "earned" the label that talent is not as important as money. How many more desperate parents will be caught up in this "scam"? Taking advantage of desperate and often financial insecure parents desperation to secure his kid a future as a rugby professional.
- Some of the Bulls players, I have heard most of them, is already part of the club that was chosen's Carlton Cup squad and will not play under aged rugby. Will this tournament not just only and unfairly increase the load on these junior stars. This, however, should only be a problem in 2019 as Mr Strauss confirmed that the contracted junior players at the Bulls will be reduced dramatically.
- It was confirmed that certain clubs offered these Bulls players match fees to join their clubs, resulting in the big three acquiring the most talent from this Bulls contracted junior teams. And there it begins ..............
Admittingly these doubts are at this stage just that, and with Mr Strauss involvement I do hope and believe that I will be the one that is laughed at in two or three years time.
But for now Willen you are definately my hero.