Pacific Island Rugby, Rugby, Rugby History, Rugby World Cup, Travel, Uncategorized

Where did the Islanders go?

Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa have historically been known for their brute like physicality and their dazzling skills. Players from the Pacific Islands have become high valued commodities in some of the most renowned rugby clubs in the world. This might be the reason that these nations are struggling to pull things together though. On 7 September 2019 the All Blacks demolished Tonga 92-7, which left the rugby world frustrated. Tonga which has such a wealth of talent just haven’t been able to pull it together. However, you look at it though should we sit here and blame Tonga or should we look at the current world rugby season set up and structure which has given Tonga very little time to prepare for their Rugby World Cup campaign.

This documentary gives a small insight into the reasons that Pacific Island Rugby struggles with players being all over the world.
Video published by Pacific Rugby Players Welfare on YouTube

World Rugby Season?

What is a global rugby season? This is the idea that all teams in the world will play on the same schedule, which will allow all teams the same amount of preparation time. This does not happen however due to a split between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, who play on different schedules. All Blacks stalwart coach Steven Hansen said in the Tonga vs NZL post match press conference, “The problem that we’ve got is a calendar that doesn’t allow you to do that,” referring to the situation. Hansen offered a solution to the problem saying, “We have these wonderful ideas about growing the game but we don’t have an organisation at the top that wants to be strong enough to say ‘righto – this is what we’re doing, we’re going to have a global season.” Is it now time for World Rugby to reshuffle the playing cards and introduce a global system?

This video is a discussion about what needs to happen for rugby to develop better throughout the world.
Video publish by The 1014 Rugby on YouTube

What good will a global season do?

This global rugby season Hansen is referring to would give these Pacific Island teams more time to prepare. The results of this would lead to more competitive test match rugby and also allow for more growth outside of the top tier. Hansen puts the problem the Pacific Island nations face in perspective saying, “It’s really difficult [for me] when your players play for five different franchises in New Zealand“, Hansen then went on to say, “So I can only imagine how difficult it would be when your players are playing all over the world and you’re bringing them back and you don’t have much time to prepare them.” Hansen is referring to the fact that most of the best Pacific Island players play in Europe due to the fact that there is more money in the game over there. Due to this factor, a priority is often given to the clubs, and players neglect their nations or are withheld from certain international competitions.

Video showing top 10 Pacific Island players
Video published on YouTube by George Vaka’uta

With all the talent that exists in the Pacific Islands hopefully soon in the near future there will be systems put in place that will allow for these great and fierce rugby nations to rise and really be counted on the big stage of world rugby. From an outsider looking in it looks to me as though the organisations need to get it right in terms of trying to put structures in place. Systems that give nations more power to dictate to clubs about whether players can play for their nations or not. It would be great to see these great nations playing more on the world stage and seeing what they can do at this year’s RWC.

Attending live games, North vs South, North vs South, Rugby, Rugby History, Super Rugby, Uncategorized

Super Rugby Fans Diasappear

Super Rugby is a competition that has been through many changes over its lifetime. The competition has been through phases of growth and phases of downsizing, as the organizers search for the winning formula. It has always been a competition that has never stopped giving the fans a thrill. An evening at the rugby for the most part always delivers the fans with some great entertainment. In recent years stadiums have emptied and fans aren’t coming to watch the live event anymore. Why is this the case and has this been caused by the ever changing format, which has meant less touring time and overall a lower amount of international derby games. There are so many things to analyse and understand. In this post I look at the data surrounding the demise of Super Rugby fans and try and look for what could be causing this demise.

Super Rugby has undergone 4 changes in the past 22 years, which have led to a great expansion of the competition. The changes have meant that Super Rugby is now played in Argentina, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and South Africa. The competition has now reached a stage where the organizers need to fine tune the product that it is giving the consumer. The competition’s up sizing and introducing of more teams from around the world meant that the format, which made it such a great brand to watch was lost. The conference system has had much criticism from fans and pundits alike. Radio New Zealand senior journalist Ben Strang shared his thoughts on the situation saying, “I think as long as TV rules over the scheduling of Super Rugby matches, crowds will continue to struggle.”

The above picture tells the story of how Super Rugby has changed through the years, but what effect has this actually had on the overall attendance of live games across South Africa? The data shows that between 2010 and 2018 the attendance at games in South Africa decreased by 60%. By looking at the timeline above this decrease began when the conference system was adopted. By putting two and two together is it possible to come to an understanding that the conference system is not a brand of Super Rugby that fans enjoy. This could be the reason that Super Rugby has announced that it will be moving back to the round robin format and switching back to 14 teams effective as of 2021.

Factors that have also influenced Super Rugby crowd attendance have also been economics. As the years have gone by the ticket prices have increased and an evening out is just not that affordable for the average person or family to go an attend. Stephen Kisbey-Green former sports editor of the Grocott’s Mail had this to say about the matter, “It’s difficult, because there are a lot of people that would like to go to the games, but the ticket prices and cost of getting to stadiums are just too expensive for them.” Stephen offers a solution to the matter saying, “Going back to the cost, I feel that stadiums are taking advantage of a “captive audience” market, meaning that they can up the cost of beer, cold drinks, and snacks to an almost exorbitant rate. If they made packages for games more cost effective, and introduced a tier system of fees, that might help the struggling rugby fan to afford the event.” Franchises still need to make money, but without the fans there would be no competition.

As an avid fan of rugby Super Rugby is something that I think has to be fixed if Southern Hemisphere teams are ever going to compete with Northern Hemisphere teams for the best players in the world. The lure of Northern money has become a big problem when it comes to retaining the best players in Super Rugby who get offered big contracts to play in Northern Hemisphere leagues such as the Premiership Rugby in the UK and French Top 14. The consequence of this drain of players also means that less fans are tuning in or going to the stadiums as all the stars are not present on the field anymore. If Super Rugby becomes the competition it once was sponsors will once again flock to the competition and teams will be able to retain the players, which will mean that the interest of fans will grow again.

North vs South, North vs South, Rugby, Rugby History, Rugby World Cup, Uncategorized

South vs North

The only Northern Hemisphere team to have ever lifted a Rugby World Cup (RWC) was England in 2003. On the other side of the spectrum the Southern Hemisphere sides have dominated at the RWC for the past three decades with Australia winning two (1991 & 1999), South Africa winning two (1995 & 2007), and New Zealand winning three (1987, 2011 & 2015). Can this current trend be broken at this years World Cup or will the Southern Hemisphere again rein supreme over the North. In this post I am going to give opinion on which teams are looking most likely to dominate at the RWC this year.

Graphic showing the Southern Hemisphere Dominance in the Rugby World Cup
Created by Joshua Parsons

King in the South

Due to the way that rugby is approached in the Southern Hemisphere where the youth grow up in a very rugby orientated culture. In the South kids are born with a rugby ball in their hands and to reinforce that a lot of emphasis is put on rugby at schools. The school rugby scene is very big with high-school and university games being broadcast on national television. A big emphasis is put on the sport from a young age. Naturally this creates a situation where, the youth coming through the system have a great understanding of the game.

Video documenting the Southern Hemisphere rugby dominance at RWC 2015
Video published by World Rugby on Youtube

Due to the climate in the South the game that is played is very different to way it is played in the North. This is mainly due to the climate as in the South rugby is played in summer and winters are usually dry, which means less kicking and more running rugby. On the other hand in the North there is more emphasis on goal kicking from penalties and this comes down to the wet climate, which makes it harder to play a running style of rugby. This means that players in the North and players in the South for the most part are playing two different brands or types of rugby. The South being quite fast and the North being quite slow and more orientated around strength rather than skill. With this being said Northern Hemisphere teams have started to play a more attractive styled running rugby in recent years and this has led to some close encounters between teams hailing from the two hemispheres.

A video showcasing the subtle difference between Northern and Southern Hemisphere rugby.
Video published by Rugby Zone on YouTube

Are the tables turning?

Recent years have seen Northern Hemisphere teams go from strength to strength. This can be seen in the recent change at the top of world rugby rankings, where Wales have gone number one replacing New Zealand who slipped up their final Rugby Championship games against Australia. To go a long with this the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand in 2017 showed promise for the North and they drew the series with the All Blacks. At the helm of the North’s resurgence are Southern Hemisphere coach’s. Warren Gatland from New Zealand is head coach of both Wales and The British and Irish Lions which are the two teams that have played a major role in putting the North back on the radar. Joe Schmidt another New Zealander has also played a major role as head coach of Ireland who have beaten New Zealand twice in the past three years. Eddie Jones of Australia is also showing promise as the Head coach of the English national side who narrowly lost to New Zealand at the end of 2018.

Video discussing the resurgence of Northern Hemisphere rugby
Video published by BT Sport on YouTube

If there was a time for things to change it would be this year as we see how the North has put itself back on the rugby map. As it stands three out of the four teams, which the numbers are favoring to win the Web Ellis trophy hail from the Northern Hemisphere. These teams are Ireland, England and Wales, along with the only team from the Southern Hemisphere being New Zealand. Therefore, this could be the year that we finally see the tables turn once and for all in favor of Northern Hemisphere sides. At the end of the day only time will tell if the Northern Hemisphere have bridged the gap.

about me, Attending live games, Passions, Rugby, Travel, Uncategorized

Joshua Parsons #MrRhodesRugby

My name is Joshua Parsons I am currently in my fourth year of studies in Digital Media at Rhodes University. I have been playing rugby since I could walk and over the years I have developed a deep passion for the game. This passion led me to try out for the rugby team at University, and whilst in my third year I was given the opportunity to lead the Rhodes University 1st XV Rugby Side, which I have now done for two consecutive seasons. Through this blog, I have decided to combine my passion for rugby and content creation.

Joshua Parsons
Photograph by Paige Timmer

I was born in Johannesburg and lived there until my parents decided to move Hilton in KZN South Africa. Thinking back to my childhood now, I have very fond memories of playing rugby for hours with my younger brother in the garden, as well as playing on the morning frost with my friends at school. As a player and as a fan, nothing makes me feel more alive than a game of rugby. The game of rugby is special because it is a game that is unforgiving to those who have not prepared well, but very rewarding for those that have made the sacrifice and put in the hard work. This in itself becomes an important metaphor for life.

Nelson Mandela quote about sport.
Graphic created by Joshua Parsons
Photograph by lasanta.com.ec, July 5 2013

For as long as I can remember, sport has been a symbol of togetherness for my family and for the whole of South Africa. This is captured in the way that Nelson Mandela used the 1995 Rugby World Cup (RWC) to unite the South African nation helping people put their differences aside. In our country, which is one with a very difficult past for the majority of the population, this is truly inspirational. In my family, and I’m sure many others, major sporting events allow families to come together and celebrate around a braai. I still remember watching the 2007 World Cup Final with my whole family. After that day my dream was always to attend a rugby world cup in whatever capacity I could, be it as a fan or even now I think of attending as a media representative.

Springboks unite a nation: RWC 1995 final
Video by World Rugby

I remember sitting in the stands with my peers and being addressed by greats like Bobby Skinstad and having a close relationship with Dick Muir growing up. The presence of professional rugby players almost knocks me off my feet. It is a truly humbling experience to be in the presence of these greats. I love seeing how these men have devoted their lives to greatness and how they sacrifice so much to play the sport that they love. For me rugby players are the closest thing you can get to real life super hero’s.

My girlfriend and I watching South Africa play Australia at The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, 29 September 2018

In 2015 I had the pleasure of going to watch the World Cup semi-final game between the All Blacks and South Africa. This was something I had dreamed of for years and it was an unreal experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Not just the atmosphere, but also the way the game of rugby brought people from all corners of the globe together to unite. After that 80 minutes the All black supporters were friends and not enemies. Even though there was a rivalry between the two sets of fans there was also an amazing respect for one another.

My ticket to the RWC semi-final between South Africa and New Zealand at Twickenham

This ticket is something I hold very dear to my heart and I have kept it ever since that day. This was one of the best experiences of my life and was probably one of the greatest games I have attended. The story behind the ticket is one of hope, because I was in the United Kingdom at the time of the world cup and I really wanted to go and support the Springboks as any passionate fan would. I decided on the day that I would take all the money I had and see if I could buy a ticket outside the stadium and attend the game. My plan B was that I would watch the game in a pub if I could not get a ticket. As soon as I got off the train there was a man who wanted to sell his ticket and it was my lucky day. I am forever grateful for this opportunity and my dream is to attend another World Cup in the near future.

Joshua Parsons leading FNB Rhodes out against CPUT, 18 March 2019 at Rhodes Great Field
Photographed by Mzwanele Sibanda

When I got to University I soon developed a passion for playing rugby. I started playing in the koshuis league, where I was noticed by the 1st XV coach who invited me to come and practice with the 1st side. I then started to feature regularly for the 1st team where I developed a real love for the game and a love for hard work and dedication. In my second year I was made captain of the Rhodes University 1st side that play in the FNB Varsity Shield. In 2019 I captained my team to their first ever victory in the Varsity Shield on national television. The highlights of this game can be seen in the video bellow.

FNB Rhodes vs FNB UFH, Varsity Shield, 21 February 2019
Video published by SuperSport

Through studying journalism and watching rugby I developed a passion for creating content and soon started my own YouTube channel called ParshallProductions. I comment on rugby and also post creative videos and vlogs. My passion is to one day turn this channel into my full time project. My other passions include getting up early, meditating, gym, water sports and many more. I hope that you as a reader enjoy this blog as much as I have enjoyed creating all the content on the blog and hopefully it will help you in some way pursue your passion.

Varsity Shield Rugby Highlights Joshua Parsons Rhodes University
Video by Joshua Parsons