OPINION: WP must cut unwieldy SLA to bring equality in clubs' strength

OPINION: WP must cut unwieldy SLA to bring equality in clubs' strength

Western Province boast top clubs like Varsity Cup champions Maties and the runners-up in the Gold Cup competition for open clubs Durbanville-Bellville, who like False Bay have previously won this competition.

Considering that WPRFU have three Super Leagues (senior) with 15 sides each in which 44 clubs play, and five regions (City, Paarl Region, Simonsberg, Northern League and Southern League)  with a further 51 clubs, as well as women’s rugby and schoolboy rugby and it is obvious that the WP administrators obviously have a huge challenge to administer the leagues.

But how good or how poor is the union’s club rugby really?

A realistic answer would probably be that it varies between excellent and extremely mediocre which could be largely be put down to unrealistic league structuring.

Let’s just look at the Super League A (SLA):

  • How can a cumbersome league of 15 sides, 14 after the withdrawal of the Victorians by the Maties, be really competitive?
  • How is it that, in the (quarterfinal) play-offs between the sides placed third to sixth in the league, a clear pattern exists that the two better sides in the league won by runaway scores? False Bay, fourth on the log, beat fifth-placed placed Union Milnerton 83-36 and Durbell (third) accounted for UWC (sixth) 54-3 with the winners advancing to the semi-finals.

Surely it can’t be to the advantage of club rugby when the bottom four sides in the SLA (excluding the Victorians who withdrew after only one fixture) between them won only ten of their 56 matches, of which with few exceptions, were against one another?

Between them, Paarl (three wins, points difference of minus 125), Villager (four wins, points difference minus 259), NTK (two wins, points difference minus 388) and Primrose (one win, points difference minus 437) conceded 1209 more points than they scored in their combined 56 matches.

There were 24 instances where the winning side scored 50 points or more in the 2019 SLA. Two of those scores were in the 90s, three more in the 80s and four of them in the 70s.

♦ The same four clubs also finished bottom of the log in the SLA for second and third teams where they won only 21 of their combined 112 fixtures which include those forfeited. They also conceded 2 436 points more than they had scored (1577 and 869 points respectively in the two leagues).

No side wants to win (or lose) by 99-11 as happened when False Bai annihilated and a similar one-sided score such as Union Milnerton’s thrashing of Primrose by 97-12.

Based on the above it seems a no-brainer to reduce the number of teams in each of the leagues. Easy enough, one would think, seeing that the same four clubs were at the bottom in the second and third team competitions.

Surely it would improve the standard not only of club rugby but also developing talent from the top clubs – universities and open clubs – for possible inclusion in the provincial side.