Columnists 8.12.2017 11:01 am

Varsity Cup’s rubbish rules add no value to our slumping game

Tuks celebrated their 2017 title win. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

Tuks celebrated their 2017 title win. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

The student rugby tournament isn’t preparing young players for the “real world” at the top and also insults fans.

Some of my mates who adore rugby tend to be bugged by my distaste for the Varsity Cup.

I’ve found it gimmicky for a substantial amount of years now while they continued to praise it as a development tool.

But the tide of opinion is beginning to turn.

Earlier this week, the organisers of the popular student rugby tournament announced a new rule for 2018’s edition: The Power Play.

In a nutshell, an attacking team – who must be in their own half at the time – can call for a three-minute period where two of the opposition backs must go off.

Organisers say it’s to equip a new generation of players to defend with two fewer defenders as yellow and red cards are a reality.

Also, it helps attackers become more ruthless when they have a numerical advantage.

This is absolute rubbish.

Senior-level coaches always talk about how they want disciplined sides.

Yes, when there are certain rule changes that they struggle with or there has been a spate of yellow cards against the, teams do practice as if they’ve received a yellow card.

However, it should only be a temporary exercise.

Fundamentally, our rugby players need to be taught how to remain disciplined for as long as possible on the field.

Gimmicky rules like the Power Play legitimise poor discipline.

The Varsity Cup has over the last five years tried to intensively encourage attacking rugby with silly “innovations”.

Yet they never address the real issue of below-average skills development and mediocre coaching.

If you want promising players to become accomplished top-level performers, give them the conditions they’ll face for the rest of their careers.

Power Plays won’t make the Springboks a more skilful team in four years’ time.

Now you hear the parrot cry: “But these innovations keep the fans interested!”

I don’t think that’s true.

No offence but I think most Varsity Cup games have great atmospheres DESPITE the rugby on show.

It’s students for goodness sake!

When a prominent rugby website ran a poll this week on the new Power Play, 89% responded that it was a terrible idea.

Local rugby fans don’t want these gimmicks and won’t go to more rugby games because of them.

They want normal, successful rugby teams who are skilful and get the basics first and foremost right.

Not this.

Heinz Schenk: Online Sports Editor.

Heinz Schenk: Online Sports Editor.

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