Opinion: All Blacks are whining, Super Rugby is struggling and English clubs are struggling

Henry

Losing is not fun for anyone, but I want to start today by pointing out the complaints of New Zealand coaches when they lose or are eliminated in World Cups.

And then (probably also from a position of enjoyment after winning the World Cup!) I show later in this opinion piece how all English rugby clubs are pulling the strings financially.

This year, the All Blacks’ coach Ian Foster moaned after the World Cup final, when the Springboks narrowly won 12-11. It’s not so much about the sending off of their captain Sam Cane after 29 minutes of the final, but about the so-called “bluffs” of referee Wayne Barnes, who by the way received praise from everywhere for his handling of the game.

In particular, Foster complained that Kwagga Smith was not penalized because (according to Foster) he would have touched the ground at almost every breakdown before winning reverse possession. And, Foster added, such a long-range penalty after the last instance of Kwagga’s reversal of possession would probably have brought the winning points from Jordie Barrett’s kicking foot.

Kwagga’s last alleged “foul” was very close to the 48m mark from which Barrett had failed earlier. That last case was not a foul in the first place, nor would it have necessarily meant three points in the last minute!

  • But nothing is mentioned about their two missed kicks (worth five points) which would/could have ruined the Boks.

1995 All Blacks’ allegations

If you go back to 1995, when the Springboks won their very first World Cup series at Ellis Park thanks to a drop goal from flyhalf Joel Stransky, there was also sour soup from the All Black side.

Coach Laurie Mains and the team doctor claimed that the All Blacks were “deliberately” poisoned during lunch in their hotel.

This weakened many members of the team, according to Mains.

But the All Blacks’ team manager, Colin Meads, attributed the poisoning to a germ in the milk at their hotel.

And there ends their criticism! But one still hears, in defense of their losing team, here and there about the alleged, unproven, “poisoning”.

Old news, and an unexpected first SA title!

Graham Henry moans after 2007 quarter-final

And then, in 2007, Graham Henry, the old sour tuber coach of the All Blacks, laid the blame for his team’s unexpected defeat against France in the quarter-final at the door of referee Wayne Barnes.

Barnes was the youngest referee and blew in his first World Cup.

It was in the days before the television referee was introduced, and I remember that Jonathan Kaplan of South Africa – one of the greats – was the relevant flagman (today it is called an assistant referee).

The French moved deep out of their own territory along the left touchline. Obviously, the referee and flagman were about a meter or a beat behind the movement.

The unpunished last pass, that’s what Henry thinks according to his autobiography Throwing the Bookhe even considered for a while as match-fixing by Barnes as this could be the only reason for the oversight.

Barnes says that you can perhaps still forgive someone if it is said in the heat of the moment after the game, but Henry’s book was not published until five years later – and he points out that such a statement has important consequences for the game and the referee can hold.

And what about the flagman? And two men who are both, then and now, considered among the very best?

Nonsense!

The above move led to the three wins for France and a place in the semi-final.

  • Barnes recently said that to this day he has not forgiven Henry for questioning his integrity and has never shaken his hand again.

All Blacks finals

It remains a fact that the All Blacks won two of their three World Cup titles at home in Auckland.

They have won their three titles only in the first tournament, in 1987 in Auckland against France, and in 2009, also in Auckland against France (9-8), and the other title was against Australia at Twickenham in 2015.

The Springboks, on the other hand, only won their first tournament at home in 1995 (after missing out on the first two, in 1987 and 1991, due to the International Rugby Board’s suspension over our country’s political policies).

The other three World Cup titles of the Springboks were won in 2007 and 2023 in France and in 2019 in Japan.

Only two other teams, Australia in 1991 against England, and England in 2003 against Australia, have won the Webb Ellis Cup.

Kiwis and Aussies struggle without South Africa

It is clear that New Zealand and Australia’s getting rid of the South African teams in Sanzaar’s Superseries is now having bitter consequences for them.

None other than Ian Foster, the All Blacks coach who vomited bile over the referee after his team lost the World Cup final against the Boks a month ago, has issued a warning to New Zealand rugby bosses.

The now unemployed former coach believes the All Blacks’ internal Super Rugby series should be boosted. The quality is not what it was when South Africa was still participating – and the crowd for the Super Rugby Pacific 2023 series, which in addition to New Zealand and Australia’s five teams each also includes representative teams from Samoa and Fiji, dropped dramatically.

In fact, the best average attendance per game of New Zealand’s participating teams this year was a mere 14,000.

  • Meanwhile, the Aussies are also struggling. Their sponsor Harvey Norman had just withdrawn, and Rugby Australia had to take out a loan of A$80 million (about R990 million) to keep the game and especially development going.

SA Rugby

And in South Africa it is actually close to very good.

There was a small loss of R2.62 million before tax in 2022, mainly attributable to SA Rugby not yet being able to start reaping the benefits of their overseas move to the North. The participation in the United Rugby Championship and the European professional club rugby competitions cost about R330 million, but broadcasting rights (R828 million) and sponsorships (R396 million).

The gross income was boosted by the income from Wales’ tests here in 2022 and the fact that a full series of the Sanzaar Rugby Championship was played.

SA Rugby will only start to fully profit from their move after the 2024/25 European season.

Money crunch at English Premier League

And in England, every one of their remaining 13 Premier League clubs posted a loss after the 2021/22 season. (Last year three clubs went bankrupt and could not meet their obligations or pay players.)

In fact, eight of the 13 clubs have had to use their shareholders’ funds in the past year to stay afloat. And we are talking about big money here.

  • Bristol’s £29.8 million (more than R707 million) was the largest contribution the owner/shareholders had to pay to a club.

The strong Harlequins had to use £12.7 million (about R300 million) of its shareholders’ funds.

The biggest loss in 2021/22 was that of Wasps (£7.4 million, or about R175 million).

(The figures for the English clubs’ 2022/23 season are not yet available.)