Thursday, 23 July 2009


Much has been said in recent weeks about the declining moral landscape in rugby. We’ve had the Kiwi crowd bottling the French team, a French player lying, Schalk Burger gouging, Bakkies being Bakkies, the arm band protest, Bath using something other than chalk for the white field lines and finally the Harlequins blood replacement scandal.

Aside from the Kiwi crowd, I would say that things have never been healthier in the game. Despite the protests from the media, illegal thuggery is much reduced than in times of old. How many wizened props or back-rows in your club have been gouged in their career, or cleared out a ruck like Bakkies, most of them I bet and they have returned the favour or retaliated with a good punch. The ’74 Lions 99 call would, today, have seen a couple or red cards, at least. It doesn’t happen at the top of the game and is been driven out the lower game because the tolerance of referees for such behaviour is zero.

There is potentially a problem, if lenient sentences are given out for things like gouging and the real shame is on the SARU for trying to defend Schalk rather than saying he’s guilty and asking the disciplinary committee to throw the book at him.

The Harlequins matter is a reflection of the fundamental spirit of rugby; cheating. No other sport I can think of has at its heart the idea of doing whatever you can get away with, playing the referee if you like. Props live for it, back-rows are admired for it, and centres run lines that are designed to confuse. Just because your arms are up, it doesn’t been you aren’t running back slowly on purpose, of course he was on his feet, he couldn’t release the ball any quicker. The list is endless and when you get caught you take the consequences but this requires HONESTY and that is what the SARU and Harlequins are lacking. Why this dishonesty? Its because the stakes are now so much higher. The clubs and Unions have money and power and the IRB must stamp its authority or risk loosing control of discipline and becoming as weak as FIFA and UEFA in soccer.

Harrison, like Matt Stevens, might have problems, but at least they have the honesty to admit it.

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