Video: ‘Our rugby rivalry with Ireland grows’


When Willem Strauss talks about rugby things, you can just listen. As president of the Blue Bulls rugby union, he has experienced, seen and heard most things in the country’s rugby boardrooms first hand.

As he quite rightly says: 30 years of experience comes in 30 years – you are a rugby administrator because you have a passion for the game.

But right now things are going well in Bloubulland.

The Bulls play tonight (at 21:00) against the Northampton Saints in the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup, while the Pretorianians also put in solid performances in the United Rugby Championship (WRC).

Then Loftus Versfeld’s seats are full again – just look at the Bulls’ recent matchup against the Stormers, while tickets for the upcoming test between the Springboks and Ireland were also snapped up in no time.

According to Strauss, he is not surprised that local rugby fans scrambled to obtain test tickets.

“South Africa’s rugby rivalry with Ireland is getting to the same level as our duels against New Zealand,” he said.

The last time the Springboks were able to deal with Ireland was in 2016, while the South Africans also lost to Andy Farrell’s team in the World Cup tournament.

“Even in our tournaments you can clearly see how the rivalry is growing. Our fixtures against Leinster, Ulster and Munster are developing.”

The Bulls learned a hard lesson against Leinster – a team loaded with Ireland players -. The Dublin club giants came up with a brilliant second-half performance to finally clinch the game on the trot.

However, the Pretorians took the defeat of 47 – 14 on the chin and immediately gave Lyon a bloody nose at Fort Loftus in the following game.

However, more efficient travel arrangements are a must if South African teams are to taste sustained success in Europe.

For example, the Bulls flew to Dublin two weeks ago for their Leinster encounter, after which they played Lyon in Pretoria the following Saturday. Today they play in Northampton against the Saints; only to race back home again for the HRC clash with Munster.

Packing your bags in Pretoria for a match in Edinburgh or Toulouse cannot be compared to a flight from London to Paris.

Strauss believes that it would perhaps be more beneficial if one could separate the two competitions – the Champions Cup and the VRC.

“The symptoms are the flight arrangements, but the disease is the overlapping of the competitions. There will of course be logistical challenges in terms of broadcast rights and so on, but it must be taken into account that teams from Africa have to travel to Europe.”

The fact that South Africa is not yet a shareholder in the EPCR (European Professional Club Rugby) also makes things difficult. This means that local teams cannot host a semi-final or final in the Champions Cup.

“It puts you on the back foot because, for example, look at the Bulls’ home record against European teams; we are still unbeaten in 21 games at Loftus.”

The efficient management of players is then undoubtedly a requirement.

“I already told Jake (White – the Bulls’ director of rugby) that he needs about seven degrees to manage the whole process. You should, as it were, you fight pick; he wants to win for Munster in the HRC where we can host a home semi-final or final. But it wouldn’t surprise me either if we do well against the Saints.”

As an administrator, you would have to search far and wide to find someone of Strauss’ caliber.

There was his time at South-Eastern Transvaal (later the Pumas) where, among other things, he facilitated the smooth transition from amateur to professional rugby, while his work at the @lantic sevens tournaments ensured that sevens rugby got a proper foothold in South African schools. has.

“The last four years at Loftus with guys like Jake and Edgar (Rathbone; the union’s CEO) were definitely my best time in rugby administration. We share the same values ​​and that’s exactly when you create a healthy culture.”

“We want to win as many titles as possible and in a nutshell we want to be the best rugby club in the world; on and off the field.”

The Bulls’ match against the Northampton Saints will be broadcast live on SuperSport tonight.