South Africa has a very rich sporting history with South Africans renowned for being huge enthusiasts of the many different sporting codes played in the country. Former president Nelson Mandela emphasized the importance of sport at the Laureus World Sports Awards Ceremony in 2000 “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else can. Sport can awaken hope where there was previously only despair”. South Africa Rugby have played an important role in the country’s history, with world-class provincial matches, producing an international feared national (Springboks) side. However in recent years the Springbok side have been gradually slipping down the world ranking list. Since the sport of rugby turned fully professional in the mid-1990’s the South African system started to use the tertiary developing process less as a stepping block for high school rugby players to the now professional rugby franchises, with the contracting of 18 and 19-year-old players. With rugby being a highly collision sport, the study investigated the American football system in the United States of America. The study focus on how both investigated collision sport (SA Rugby & American football) systems develop players from high school amateur players to professional players, placing emphasis on the path way through the tertiary systems of both sporting codes and the selection process from amateur to professional sport.
The overall aim of this study was to determine to what extent the NCAA American football and NFL draft system, could be-applied to the South African rugby system. Investigating factors such as physical and physiological maturity, Long term athlete development and talent identification by adopting an exploratory ethno-graphic qualitative research design as methodology, to ask the research question: To what extent can the NCAA American football and NFL Draft system be applied to the South Africa tertiary system? Based on the preceding research question it postulated that similarities exist between both collision sports, with both sports being part of highly competitive organised school sport, followed by the tertiary platforms provided through the NCAA (USA) and Varsity Cup (South Africa) towards professionalism.
Results of the study established through the documentation that the American football system utilised a student-athlete system as academic requirements for participation is, implemented from school level and players competing within the tertiary platform needs to be amateur certified to be able to compete. Whereas for the South African rugby system having no academic requirements for participation through school as this only becomes a requirement when going through the tertiary system. (Varsity Cup). With Varsity Cup having similar academic eligibility rules, like that of the NCAA it does not excluded the participation of professional players.
The conclusion of the study confirmed that Varsity Cup is more athlete-student then student-athlete as with the NCAA. The study provided evidence that the two collision sports compared sharing many characteristics. The principles inherent in NCAA American football and NFL Draft can be applied to that of SA rugby to a certain extent. The following recommendations for both SA rugby and Varsity Cup where suggested Not allowing SA rugby franchises and unions to contract rugby players under the age of twenty – SARU policy change. Discontinuing/Cancelling the u/19, u/20 and u/21 age group provincial competitions – SARU policy change Excluding players which are contracted at a SA rugby franchise or union and excluding players receiving a salary for participating in rugby – Varsity Cup policy change.