Rugby annual has everything you need to know
It’s been another troubling week in South African rugby with the news of more players going overseas and there have been the usual dire predictions of the game in this country having no future.
In situations like these, looking back into the past sometimes provides solace and the 2017 edition of the South African Rugby Annual, available now at all leading retailers nationwide and on certain online platforms, is as comprehensive a collection of all the past glories and sorrows of the game in SA as you could hope to find.
It is a statistical and trivia treasure trove. Did you know for instance that Bulls and Springbok centre Jan Serfontein (2011) and his father Jan (1976-78), the former Eastern Province No 8, were the first father-and-son combination to play for the SA Schools team?
Serfontein junior is the player who dropped the bombshell this week that he is leaving South African rugby, thus joining the four pages of South Africans playing abroad compiled by Stuart Farmer, a section of the annual that is growing at a daunting pace.
The annual obviously provides a comprehensive wrap of the Springboks in 2016, including a report on their draw against the Barbarians at Wembley last November, when Francois Venter first played for the national side. The Cheetahs centre will perhaps gain the most from Serfontein’s exit and many would say “what’s all the fuss about” given how good a player Venter is.
Why I believe there should be a fuss made about Serfontein’s move is because his agent belongs to the same sports management company behind the controversial departures of cricketers Rilee Rossouw and Kyle Abbott as well as numerous other rugby players now playing abroad.
I have it on good authority that the management company only earn commission when they land their players an overseas deal, so it is obvious they have a vested interest in pushing players to go the foreign route. What they have been doing to our sport recently amounts to strip-mining its assets.
It is difficult to know where SA Rugby can go to stop the plunder – Serfontein was offered what he himself described as a “generous” national contract – but perhaps it’s time they became strict on players not being allowed to negotiate with other clubs while still under contract.
It was reported in France as far back as January that Serfontein had signed a three-year deal with Montpellier, so his subsequent “negotiations” with SA Rugby and the Bulls were arguably in bad faith, much like the poor form Rossouw showed in his dealings with Cricket South Africa.
There was, of course, no guarantee that Serfontein would have been in the Springbok midfield when they line up against France next month – the annual will tell you that South Africa’s last Test against Les Bleus was, astonishingly, the 19-10 win in Paris back in November 2013 – and, to be fair, the 25-year-old has not always done full justice to his talents when he has pulled on the Green and Gold.
It’s all part of the change though that is inevitable in rugby, like the rise of Argentina – in the Springbok section of the annual you can find the results of the eight Tests they played against the whole South American continent (and latterly “boosted” by Spain) between 1980 and 1984 and now we struggle to beat just the one country.
Anyway, for those of you who want to blame the Bulls for letting Serfontein go, you can find the franchise’s phone number and address, and those of all the Super Rugby teams, inside the annual to make your protest action easier.
The annual also provides full Super Rugby coverage, including that the Lions used 44 players in the competition, while the Currie Cup section will show you that Border used 40. If you are interested in Valke players, there is a complete list of them too, as well as all of their 2016 results. The Varsity Cup is also covered.
If global rugby is your thing, you can find out the score when Rwanda played Burundi in Kigali last May or who the leading try-scorers in world rugby are.
Other intriguing lists provided by editors Duane Heath and Eddie Grieb are of all the top schoolboy players and their schools, all SA Schools caps since 1974 and all players who have appeared in Currie Cup finals. And there are photographs too – including a classic of gigantic Waratahs lock Will Skelton engulfing some unfortunate opponent much like the euro/ pound/yen are overwhelming the rand.