The cost of transformation

Sarah Boomgaard

The cost of transformation

How much are we willing to pay for the transformation of our rugby squads?

What if you could not afford to support your team? What if you have been a diehard supporter of this team for decades but suddenly you did not have the financial means to see them play anymore? Rugby has become increasingly inaccessible to South Africans. Rugby and cricket are amongst the least accessible sports to members of the public; not only are they expensive to play but even the ability to enjoy a game from the comfort of your couch has become increasingly difficult.

Rugby is not available to watch on any free to view channels in South Africa. To watch the Springboks or even your favourite club rugby team, one needs to have DSTV. Moreover, as rugby is generally only available on channel 201, one requires DSTV Premium – the most expensive package DSTV has to offer. SuperSport’s fairly recent decision to include Xhosa rugby commentary is admirable and definitely a step in the right direction. However as the majority of Xhosa speakers cannot afford the package the channel which rugby is available, SuperSport’s efforts to provide more linguistically and culturally inclusive commentary prove fruitless.


DSTV packages on offer with the sports channels available to each package.

Rugby is not available on any other DSTV channel, with the exception of SuperSport Blitz which showcases 5 minute highlights of various matches across a variety of sports. Five minutes is nothing. Five minutes is not enough to capture someone’s interest and we desperately need to capture people’s interest. Capturing the interests of the community would allow the rugby watching audience to grow, which would result in a more inclusive support base which in turn would help to establish a more diverse talent pool.

It may perhaps seem far-fetched to link transformation to the price of DSTV subscriptions, but the relationship is not all that difficult to understand. If people in impoverished communities, which in South Africa are predominantly people of colour, are unable to watch to rugby they will never grow to become rugby fans. If rugby fans are limited to the predominantly white affluent segments of the population, these segments will continue to make up the dominant rugby playing public. Politicians cannot continue to bemoan the slow pace of transformation without providing the general public access or the ability to watch rugby. Rugby needs to make its way to inexpensive − if not free − channels. The Springboks tests in particular should be made available to watch on SABC. It only makes sense that the public should be available to watch our national rugby team on our national broadcaster. This would allow for a strengthening of the rugby culture in our poorer communities.

Season Ticket Prices

Graph 1: Season ticket prices correct at 19/06/2017

The prices of rugby tickets have also become problematic. Season ticket prices are borderline ludicrous. On average the Blue Bulls charge more per season ticket, more than any other union, where one can pay as much as R3900 for a Blue Bulls season ticket as can be seen in Graph 1 (right). The least expensive season tickets can be found in the Free State, the home of the Cheetahs. Generally ticket prices have also risen over the last few years, with inflation being the only apparent source of this increase. Most stadiums have not made any noticeable renovations which might explain the continued hikes in ticket prices. Despite DHL Newlands’ desperate need of renovation, it appears that Western Province Rugby has only upgraded their ancient sound system and splashed some red and yellow paint across the stadium to accommodate their sponsors, DHL. Yet a Stormers/ Western Province Rugby season ticket can cost you between R1700 and R2700.

Super Rugby ticket prices

Graph 2: Super Rugby ticket prices correct at 19/06/207

Single match day tickets for Super Rugby games share more or less the same relationship between prices and respective unions as season tickets do. Once again, the Blue Bulls ask the most for their tickets whereas the Cheetahs ask the least (illustrated in Graph 2, right). The average price for a Super Rugby ticket is R114. While this may not seem like a lot of money to some people, for others it is choice between rugby tickets and food. I am by no means advocating for fee free tickets. Rugby unions need to earn an income and tickets are an easy way to do this. However, it would be prudent for rugby unions to make cheaper tickets available, even if these seats are limited to the lower sections of the stands behind the posts.

Access to the Springboks is almost impossible for poorer members of the community. A Rugby Championship ticket or a ticket to an international test can cost up to R650 at stadiums across South Africa. However, one need only pay R100 to see Bafana Bafana. The vast gap in proficiency, style or skill between the Springboks and Bafana are often cited as the primary reasons for the price discrepancy. Nevertheless the implications of the price of rugby tickets extends so much further than the “quality for money” argument. We are trying to build an inclusive national squad; one which is truly representative of the demographics of South Africa.

Forfeiting SuperSport’s broadcasting rights. Diminishing rugby union’s incomes. These are great asks. They require immense sacrifice. Yet the sacrifice we continue to make today is that much greater. If we continue to allow DSTV to hold exclusive broadcasting rights, if we continue to alienate the underprivileged through expensive tickets; the cost is immeasurable. We risk so much more than money. We risk the future of rugby in South Africa. We continue to sabotage all attempts to make transformation a reality. We could hold countless rugby clinics in traditionally black communities. We could invite numerous underprivileged schools to attend Super Rugby matches. It will not bring about change at the required pace. These are once off events in children’s lives. Without the development of a thriving rugby culture in impoverished communities, transformation will ever remain a pipe dream.


Show me the money!

The economic implications of South Africa hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2023

Sarah Boomgaard

Last month SA Rugby Union delivered their bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Jurie Roux, CEO of SARU, was extremely proud of the 827 page, 8.2kg document outlining why South Africa is the ideal country to host the tournament.

Roux highlighted the fact that South Africa would be able to use the existing infrastructure left over from the 2010 Soccer World Cup which would allow for a maximisation of profits. Roux made further predictions regarding the economy and he believes that South Africa could see “a R27.3 billion direct, indirect and induced economic impact on South Africa; R5.7 billion [of which flowing] to low-income households [and] an estimated R1.4 billion tax benefit to government.” Similar fantastical predictions were made when South Africa bid for and eventually hosted the Soccer World Cup in 2010. Yet seven years later, South Africa’s economy doesn’t seem significantly different.

During the Soccer World Cup, there was a sense of euphoria. The statistics were certainly hopeful. Tourism was expected to skyrocket, alcohol, food and beverage sales were also expected to increase. The opportunity for job creation was frequently highlighted. The tourism sector indeed saw a significant increase of 20%, while alcohol and food and beverage sales also enjoyed a slight increase. However South Africa’s unemployment rate remains at 27%. During the build up to the Soccer World Cup unemployment rates decreased from 2008-2009. However many of the jobs created by the tournament were temporary and following the World Cup, unemployment rates continued to rise in South Africa.

Given the unsustainable economic momentum of the 2010 Soccer World Cup, one has to wonder whether Roux’s promises of a better tomorrow are justified. Speaking to Dr Djiby Thiam, a Senior Economics Lecturer at the University of Cape Town, it is clear that those in need will not be the recipients of the wealth which the 2023 Rugby World Cup is predicted to generate. Dr Thiam stresses that South Africa’s financial woes cannot be solved by hosting the tournament. Should South Africa win the bid, the tourism sector will most likely flourish.  However the impoverished will not be the direct recipients of the surge in the tourism sector as the “the implications will be very much narrowed” says Dr Thiam. The profits “will be going towards those who already have the capital to invest in guest houses or hotels.”

While the rich will be main benefactors of the income generated by the Rugby World Cup, this does not mean that we will not see any ramifications for the poor. In terms of poverty reductions, Dr Thiam thinks that we would see “some implications for the poor, when it comes to investing in infrastructure.” Additionally beyond improvements in infrastructure, the State will be able to collect income and value added taxes from the wealthier segments of the population who would be earning and spending more during and in the build up to the Rugby World Cup. The increased income for the State in the form of taxes can then be reallocated to the poor.

The reallocation of these profits will be complicated. Dr Thiam explains that “reallocation does not only mean money” arguing that this is only one part of the solution. “It means [creating] drivers for change. Drivers for change are education, service delivery and from there not only will we have a higher GDP, but we can expect a GDP that is much more inclusive of the country.”

The government can indeed use the increase in taxes to supplement education, health care, etc. However let us not forget that SARU would also earn a tidy sum of money from the International Rugby Board. I propose that most, if not all, of the money which SARU receives from the IRB should be placed in an independently run sovereign fund. This fund would be used to finance rugby clinics in underprivileged communities, providing financial support for schools with budding rugby programs in impoverished areas and establishing better financial and tactical support for women’s rugby in South Africa. Should SARU restrain themselves and be cautious with the allocation of their own bonuses, transformation would not be a hope for the distant future, but 2023 could be the start of a realistic and necessary change in SA Rugby.

So what do you say, SARU? Don’t boost your bonuses, boost our teams.

Probing patriotism: the South African All Blacks supporter

The South African All Blacks supporter, a creature most commonly found in the Western Cape, feared and disliked by ‘patriotic’ South Africans.

The All Blacks have not played a test in Cape Town since 2008 as a direct result of the high volume of support which they receive at Newlands. This year however, SARU has relented. The Springboks will face the All Blacks at Newlands Rugby Stadium later this year. In the past whenever Newlands played host to a New Zealand based team a number of New Zealand supporters could be seen scattered about the stands.

I had lived under the assumption that these Capetonian All Blacks fans supported the New Zealanders for political reasons. Under Apartheid, people of colour were denied the opportunity to represent their country in their respective sports. As a result many people of colour understandably opted to support the All Blacks. I assumed that South Africans who continued to support the All Blacks were simply those who had supported the All Blacks under Apartheid and that the younger generation of South African All Black supporters were merely raised in All Black supporting households. While this may be the case in a number of homes, it is not the case for many.

Speaking to Quinton Francis, an avid Hurricanes and All Blacks supporter, I learned that a love for New Zealand rugby doesn’t necessarily stem from a dislike of Springbok politics. “My parents were never really politically involved and there was never any pressure on me to support the All Blacks,” Francis explains. Francis supports the All Blacks simply because he believes that “they are the best.” Francis’ thoughts are echoed by many Cape Town based All Blacks supporters. One such supporter, Fatima Levy, sites the All Blacks expansive playing style as one of her reasons for supporting the All Blacks. Levy feels that the Springboks “are boring to watch.”

Preferring one team’s playing style over another seems as valid reason as any to support a team. However, scrolling through the comment section on a News24 article this is apparently not the case. Putting aside the irony that the article is titled ‘Cape Crusaders’ lack class yet it appears that the profanities and insults are used mainly by angry Springbok supporters, it is clear that many Springbok supporters don’t agree that people should be allowed to support the teams of their choice. Words like “loyal” and “patriotic” are frequently used as reasons to support the team of the country in which you were born in. One News24 user used the analogy of supporting another school during interschool competitions. This is reductio ad absurdum. These supporters are not playing for the Springboks. In no way are these any activities on the field.

Individuals supporting foreign teams is not a new concept. Many South Africans support English football clubs. Many of these supporters do not even follow South African soccer. Lloyd Bell, an avid Liverpool supporter, mentions that the difference in standard is one of the multitude reasons for which prefers English football over South African soccer. South African All Blacks supporters often use that same reasoning for their support of New Zealand rugby. Yet there is no mention of South African English football fans being unpatriotic.

Why is it permissible for a South African to support an English football club but not a New Zealand rugby team? Why are the Springboks so closely connected to a South African Nationalist identity but Bafana Bafana is not? We know that the Springboks were used as a tool for the promotion of White Afrikaaner Nationalism and rugby still plays a large role in the Afrikaans culture. Is the reason that we are so quick to oppose the South African All Black because we still relate South African patriotism and national identity to a particular brand of Afrikaans whiteness? Even if we are doing this subconsciously, if this is the case, perhaps we shouldn’t be shouldn’t be so quick to condemn South Africans who choose to support the All Blacks.

But you’re a girl…?

Sarah Boomgaard

This is not the blog post I had intended to write. I had another article in the works about the socioeconomic effects about South Africa possibly hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2023. However that will have to wait.

Yesterday, SA Rugby Magazine posted a picture of the Super Rugby log as it stands before the weekend’s matches begin. I posted a status on Facebook stating “this log makes no sense”, obviously calling to light the legitimacy of the Stormers and the Brumbies’ log position which was afforded to them by the conference system. I was not alone. Many others felt that the conference system unjustly benefited the Stormers and the Brumbies. My comment was almost immediately followed by a comment in which a fellow Facebook user attempted to mansplain the conference set-up to me and only me.

Mansplanation of the year

Comments extracted from SA Rugby Magazine’s Facebook fan page

For those of you who are not acquainted with my rugby exploits, allow me to give you a brief rundown. My first letter to the editor was published in SA Rugby Magazine when I was 14. I was a part of Vodacom’s Player 23 Blog Squad in 2011. I have been involved in the development of and maintenance of eleven official Facebook fan pages of various rugby players. My thoughts on transformation have been published in the Cape Times. My interests in rugby extend far beyond eighty minutes on Saturday afternoon. My interests are intellectual. Despite the changing demographics of rugby fanatics, because I am a woman my opinions and motives are continuously questioned. My opinions must originate from my father. I only watch rugby to look at the muscular men. These are assumptions that I have heard my whole life. These misogynistic fans say “but you’re a girl?” as if being a woman and a rugby fan are two mutually exclusive concepts.

Elements of sexism in rugby extend to the field as well. The SA Women’s rugby team do not enjoy nearly as much media coverage as the men. Even on SARU’s official website, information regarding the Women’s team is hard to come by. While the South African men’s team are afforded their own tab, information regarding the SA women’s team is awkwardly wedged in a drop-down list between the Springbok Sevens and SA Schools. Articles pertaining to the Women’s XV team and the Sevens team are all located under the same listing, whereas as articles regarding the various men’s teams are separated and clearly labelled. To add insult to injury, these articles rarely name players they however, frequently mention members of the male coaching staff by name.  This is only mildly better than SA Rugby Magazine, whose website has not updated news regarding Women’s rugby since February, 2016.

Speaking to Jane*, a former member of the SA women’s playing squad, says that this kind of sexism is not new. “It’s a disgrace” she says when I ask her about the Women’s team lack of media coverage. “They tell us that we don’t get media attention because there is no public interest but if we had more media attention there would be more public interest.” Jane raises valid points. However we have seen that a surge in spectatorship or even titles in women’s sport doesn’t necessarily translate into equal rights. Last year, members of the United States’ Women’s soccer team took legal action against the U.S. Soccer Federation claiming that they were being discriminated against as they earn a fraction of what the men’s team earn. In fact players on the men’s team earn more if they lose than a women’s player would earn for a match that their team wins.

It is truly disheartening to see that women’s sports team are continuously swept to the side to make space for the men’s teams whose egos are only exceeded by their paycheques. Rugby was once thought to be a “white man’s game”. In an era where equality is highly sought, players of colour are slowly starting to make their way through the ranks. Yet we hardly ever regard women as a group whose socioeconomic needs have to be redressed. One need not set transformation aspirations aside to promote women’s rights in sports. Just like being a girl and rugby fan, these are not two mutually exclusive concepts.


*Jane is an alias to protect the identity of the interviewee.