Rugby an­nual has ev­ery­thing you need to know

The Citizen (Gauteng) - - SPORT - Ken Bor­land SE­CRET AGENT @KenBor­land

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.

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