Column: Quantity doesn’t equal quality

There would be greater hype for a Springboks-All Blacks clash if these Tests were staged less often, writes former Bok captain JEAN DE VILLIERS in the latest SA Rugby magazine.

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Tournament structures are changing. South Africa’s top franchises look set to appear in the Pro16 in 2021, the future of the Rugby Championship has been a matter of speculation, and the annual double-header involving the Boks and All Blacks appears to be a thing of the past.

We’re unlikely to see these teams competing home and away and it is possible these fixtures will be packaged differently. The upshot is that the sport’s biggest rivalry will play out in South African stadiums on far fewer occasions. The Kiwis will endure a similar wait for what many in New Zealand regard as the game’s most meaningful match-up.

South Africans and New Zealanders have a deep-rooted appreciation for this rivalry. I grew up emulating my Springbok heroes whenever I played rugby with my mates in the backyard. As a kid, you’re always pretending that you need a try or kick to win the World Cup – and you’re always playing against South Africa’s greatest foes: the All Blacks.

I had the opportunity to chat to Jonah Lomu about this special rivalry when we were at the Springbok Experience Rugby Museum in Cape Town in 2015. He said the New Zealanders feel the same way and that as kids, they grow up with the desire to test themselves against the Boks. It’s a rivalry that’s as much a part of their rugby culture as it is ours.

In a way, it would be sad not to see the All Blacks and Boks competing as much on an annual basis. That said, when you stop to think about all that’s happened over the past year or so, and the lessons the sport has learned from the unplanned Covid-19 break, you start to wonder if staging this massively important event less often isn’t a step in the right direction.

Super Rugby has become bloated over the past 10 years or so. The powers that be have finally realised that quantity does not equal quality, and that less is more.

When rugby, and all sport, was put on hold for six months due to the concerns around the coronavirus, we saw how much people missed it. There was a greater demand for the game when the government eventually gave our teams the green light to resume in late September. That’s a classic example of how less can be more.

The hype around the next British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa is incredible. None of the Bok players wants to miss out on that Test series. They know they won’t get another chance to face the composite side from the north. After all they achieved at the World Cup in Japan last year, they’re desperate to face the Lions and win a series that’s held in South Africa once every 12 years.

What if a series between the Boks and the All Blacks – staged every two years, and every four years in South Africa – could generate the same hype? No match against the All Blacks is ever taken lightly, but if these Tests were staged less often, the value and importance would skyrocket. Commercially speaking, there would be a greater interest around the match-up.

*This column first appeared in the latest SA Rugby magazine, now on sale!

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