Heinz Schenk
3 minute read
3 Oct 2017
4:38 pm

Cosatu’s Newlands strike threat is breathtakingly naive

Heinz Schenk

The trade union is right that millions are being starved of watching the Springboks on TV. Calling for the SABC to step in is ridiculous.

I have little sympathy for the criticism the Springboks and their coaches have to absorb in the build-up to Saturday’s Test against the All Blacks at Newlands.

It’s pretty much their own doing that they’ve failed to show gradual improvement over the season against progressively tougher opposition.

Nonetheless, it must be pretty tough preparing in the environment they find themselves in this week.

Also read: Cane comments show how Saru has shot Springboks in the foot

Now, it’s highly likely that the All Blacks would’ve beaten the Springboks even if this weekend’s battle had been played at a “fortress” like Ellis Park.

That’s just the gulf in class between the two sides.

Hosting a Test against New Zealand in Cape Town though just piles the misery on the Springboks.

Not only do they have to deal with the negativity surrounding their own form but also a substantial (yet not overwhelming) regional population with documented support for the All Blacks.

The results don’t lie: New Zealand have a 67% win rate at Newlands.

The Springboks might as well be playing away from home.

To make matters worse, Cosatu have provided further distraction with their call for protest action at the Test.

We’ve seen this movie before as the trade union federation previous threatened to picket in 2015.

It didn’t materialise.

At least in 2015 they were miffed at transformation in general – from white men being in positions of power to then coach Heyneke Meyer’s apparent lilywhite selections.

In 2017, Cosatu wants a boycott because Saturday’s Test isn’t being aired on the SABC.

As a result, people who can’t afford DSTV are being treated like “second-class citizens”.

The wording is rather crude but they’re not wrong about millions of South Africans being sidelined from a slice of the action.

Cosatu then continues: “National sports that must inspire the whole nation must be shown live on SABC, as it is a national sport of all the people. This kind of discrimination will never be allowed in a national soccer match, as the government would step in to ensure it is available live for all citizens.”

This is where the trade union starts losing its grip on the argument.

It seems they’ve conveniently forgotten of Safa’s controversial R1 billion deal in 2014 with the Siyaya TV consortium, who after an outcry, allowed the public broadcaster to acquire the TV rights on a sub-licensing basis.

There’s also no mention of Bafana Bafana’s 2019 World Cup qualifying win over Nigeria in June inexplicably not being screened live.

Safa were livid.

What Cosatu (and granted many others) also don’t realise is that the South African Rugby Union (Saru) is in a difficult situation in terms of TV rights.

Unlike, for example, the Proteas, the Springboks attract megabucks in this regard.

Don’t ask me why such a mediocre brand is still so popular but if it weren’t for South Africa, Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship wouldn’t be commercially viable.

Yes, people still actually pay to watch the Boks.

That means those TV rights are hugely expensive.

How on earth can one expect a public broadcaster that still doesn’t have a board and is “commercially insolvent” according to the auditor-general to pay top dollar?

Cosatu also needs to realise that TV money is the only thing that’s keeping local rugby alive.

The majority of the unions are reliant on distributions from those rights to survive financially.

If they go under, Cosatu won’t have any national team to watch anyway.

That’s the inconvenient truth.

And let’s rather not talk about them alleging SuperSport analyst Nick Mallett “suits the Stellenbosch mafia’s agenda” with his commentary.


Mallett studied at UCT and Oxford.

He’s maybe a “colonialist” but he’s no Afrikaner.