So in the recent 2013 Rugby League World Cup launch, in Salford, the qualification process was announced and it had the two or three people that turned up to the launch scratching their heads.
There is one spot in the World Cup open to what they are calling an “Atlantic Qualifier”.
In real terms, this position is the “We hope to god the United States makes it” spot, but thats beside the point, because of the three teams that are able to qualify, one of the U.S.A., one is Jamaica and one is our old friend, South Africa.
Lets forget for a moment that in the recent Atlantic Cup, South Africa decided to pull out of the tournament and were replaced by Canada, who did a decent job on short notice.
I’ve been following Rugby League for a very long time now, all of about five minutes, and for that entire five minutes there has always been a few people who honestly in their hearts believe that Rugby League is played in South Africa.
They mean well, but they all have one thing in common. None of them are South African.
We’ve seen a few South African Rugby League players over time, every single one of them being a Rugby Union convert.
Jarrod Saffy of the St George/Illawarra Dragons is the latest. He came over to Australia, started playing the game, had an ok career as what I’d call a fringe first grader and next season will play for the Melbourne Rugby Union team, going back to his rugby union roots.
In the last few years, the Sydney Roosters recruited a South African kid called JP du Plessis straight from South Africa. Of course, he was a Rugby Union player and he said himself“when Pete started talking about playing football in Australia, I thought he meant AFL. I’d never heard of rugby league – I had no idea what he was talking about.”, Pete being Peter O’Sullivan, the Sydney Roosters talent scout who spends zero days a year in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney.
Of course, JP du Plessis was an incredible success, and is already back in Rugby Union and will also play for the Melbourne Rugby Union team who deadset struggled to find anyone to play for them!
The thing about Rugby Union in South Africa is, it doesn’t actually exist.
Sure they will get together a bunch of Rugby Union players and have a dabble when a touring lower grade Rugby League team goes over there. I mean, I’m sure I could get my local Rugby League club to get together enough players to give a touring Korfball team a run, it doesn’t mean we play Korfball in Australia no matter how much I wish that were the case…
You also have to realize the way South Africa decides when and where it will exist in the international game.
When the Poms get their say and invite every man and his dog to play in the Rugby League World Cup, hey, South Africa comes out of hiding and gladly accepts the all expenses paid trip.
When Australia runs the World Cup and tries to inject a bit of credibility into the competition, you know, stipulating things such as having to actually play the game, well, that’s when you find South Africa decides not to show up to the party.
Despite all that, some people feel a need to pretend they actually play Rugby League in South Africa. I’m not sure why, but I guess people are strange and panicky creatures that are hard to understand.
Take it from me, as a long observer of the game who has read the same shit and heard the same promises over decades, Rugby League doesn’t exist in South Africa. You’ll find more Rugby League in Germany, Jamaica and the team who should have been allowed to qualify for the 2013 World Cup, Canada.
South Africa meanwhile is just like Morocco. Remember Morocco? The once proudly boasted about outpost of Rugby League that was also more make believe than anything else. South Africa hasn’t even got the same Rugby League history that Morocco boast, thats got to say it all!
So please, the next time some idiot tries to tell you that Rugby League exists in South African just feel sorry for the poor bastards. They want it to be, but it just ain’t!
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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