The Tri Nations is upon us again, and yet this annual rugby slug-fest played out between the three heavyweights of Southern Hemisphere (and indeed World) rugby – Australia, New Zealand, and the world champions South Africa – fails to whip up much of a frenzy in the Northern Hemisphere – even amongst the most hardened rugby fans.
What reasons could there be for this Southern Hemisphere tour de force being such a damp squib up here?
Firstly, let’s look at the teams involved – the rugby juggernaut that is the All Blacks, coupled with the two-time world champions Australia and the current world champions South Africa – not a bad line-up. But is this all star line-up in essence its own undoing? The often “inclusive” nature of the SANZAR nations has alienated them from other rugby territories. The continued reluctance to entertain the idea of expanding the tournament to include Argentina (3rd place in the 2007 Rugby World Cup) or some of the developing rugby nations of Fiji, Tonga or Samoa has served to highlight the apparent arrogance of the Tri Nations countries.
Secondly, let’s look at a map. South Africa, as the name indicates, is situated at the bottom of Africa – let’s be honest, it’s an absolute mission to get to. New Zealand and Australia are somewhat more labourious with a flight form London lasting approximately 20 hours.
Due to the natural curvature of the Earth, coupled with the impact that this has on the angle of the sun’s rays hitting the Earth’s surface, daylight hours are somewhat different down under (though, incidentally, South Africa is only 2 hours ahead of GMT). Therefore, TV viewing times are hard to match up – as anyone getting up at 8am during the last ill-fated Lions tour to New Zealand will be fully aware. In order to hit the prime time viewing slots in the Northern Hemisphere, the games would have to be played in the early hours of the morning their time – which is a tad anti-social.
And finally, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa all play a fast-paced, try-heavy brand of rugby, which historically tends to steam roll the Northern Hemisphere sides (excluding the English 2003 World Cup winning side, obviously). Maybe this is why we don’t watch it?
It’s too depressing seeing the plethora of talent at the disposal of each nation. We’re jealous. We can’t comprehend what we’re doing wrong. Why can’t Ireland produce wingers like Sitiveni Sivivatu? Why can’t Scotland’s flankers outwit Richie McCaw or Juan Smith? Why can’t England’s centres break a line like Giteau, Nonu and de Villiers do? Why did Wales – the best of the Northern Hemisphere – get so unashamedly owned by South Africa? We’ve even tried poaching all the best players to play over here so that they can’t play for the national team but we still get turned over. So much frustration.
Maybe if we don’t watch them play, they’ll go away…
By John White