Cape Town – the epicentre of African cool, draped in scenery, shimmering sun, and filled with an eclectic range of culture. Yeah ok, you’ve heard this all before in the plethora of travel guides that rightfully rave about the Mother City. But for a lot of South Africans the ‘CT’ craic revolves around two things – rugby and party time. The Cape Town Tens certainly has plenty of both in abundance. Bob, Rob, and Ron. Wingmen and legendary former Springboks, Bobby Skinstad and Robbie Fleck, along with ‘Tens’ guru Ron Rutland are the pioneers in bringing this rugby party to town.
by Robin Heymann
Cape Town – the epicentre of African cool, draped in scenery, shimmering sun, and filled with an eclectic range of culture. Yeah ok, you’ve heard this all before in the plethora of travel guides that that rightfully rave about the Mother City. But for a lot of South Africans the ‘CT’ craic revolves around two things – rugby and party time. The Cape Town Tens certainly has plenty of both in abundance.
Bob, Rob, and Ron
Wingmen and legendary former Springboks, Bobby Skinstad and Robbie Fleck, along with ‘Tens’ guru Ron Rutland are the pioneers in bringing this rugby party to town. Rutland was one of the founders of the Bangkok Tens back in 2004, now a permanent and popular fixture on the Asian circuit. One of the regulars in Asia was the ‘Jamboys’ team with Rutland and World Cup winner Bobby Skinstad part of their notable playing alumni. The Jamboys ‘old school’ social and fun ethos is something that Rutland, Skinstad, and Fleck have aimed to incorporate into the backbone of their tournament.
Party Party Party!
Hamilton RFC is set to be awash with beer tents, fancy dress, blaring music, and plenty of eye candy over the two-day extravaganza. Yet don’t be fooled into thinking that this is an 18-30 blowout, corporate big wigs will get opportunities to rub shoulders and network whilst the kids will be entertained with ‘Garvs Sports Academy’ - a clinic rung by former Springbok prop Adrian Garvey. With Fleck taking on the official ‘party liaison’ role he admitted the committee are looking for the event to replicate the festival fiesta seen at the Hong Kong and Dubai with a unique Cape flavour.
“If you go to the Hong Kong Sevens, for instance, one of the stands, the notorious South Stand is full of people in fancy dress, drinking beer, singing songs and watching a bit of rugby,” said Fleck.
“Traditionally, South Africans aren’t the types to get dressed up and go to rugby matches, but we’d love them to get into the spirit – ala Hong Kong or Bangkok and come dressed like superheroes, cartoon characters or even politicians! It all adds to the occasion.”
Lets hope it doesn't turn into a YMCA reunion!
10s - the new 7s?
In amongst the melee of Ferrari chassised babes and beer swelling there is actually some rugby to be played. Not only is this kind of tournament an opportunity to unveil some fresh unearthed talent it is also a chance to see how the new kids on the block deal with the ‘legends’ and the elder statesmen of the game.
“Rugby is what is important here – there is some serious competition in amongst the social stuff,” Skinstad is quick to point out.
So what is Tens Rugby all about? This truly is a game for all shapes and sizes as with space for five forwards and five backs per side – allowing the slightly more rotund individuals a chance to shine in conjunction with pretty boy flyers. It’s a combination of Sevens and fifteen-man rugby, without as much open space as Sevens but with all the flair. Perhaps the key distinction between this and seven-a-side version is that scrums, line-outs and rucking are still relatively important providing a bit more structure to the game.
These ingredients are perhaps the reasons so many coaches like to use the Tens game as an alternative pre-season training tool. As-well as building a platform of fitness it also gives coaches an opportunity to see how forwards and backs link up with each other in a match situation. Interestingly it's not just the full fifteen-a-side teams adding the format to their early season programme but also Sevens teams. The New Zealand Metro, who act a second team to the full New Zealand Sevens squad, see the value of tens, regularly use the Hong Kong Tens event to build some early momentum.
But are we selling Tens short here? There are some ten’s aficionados who believe that this type of format is arguably more sociable then sevens. It caters for all shapes and sizes with a greater emphasis on forward play. Arguably it provides a more realistic development tool for players wishing to use the format to improve their game for the full fifteen-a-side version. There is growing evidence of Australian sevens tournaments converting themselves into a tens format. Perhaps the key factor being the greater degree of focus on scrums and line-outs: areas where the Australians have come under scrutiny of late.
“Its a fantastic way of exploiting space without loose forwards on the pitch, but at the same you couldn’t afford to neglect your line-outs, scrums, etc,” said Skinstad.
Old boys out to steal show
The format for Cape Town comprises of an Open Premier League for the Professionals and other top club and touring sides and an ‘Open Beer League’ incorporating touring sides and those preferring to seek ‘social’ kudos. The golden oldies aren’t forgotten too with the Veterans League for the over 35s out to show their young counterparts the true meaning of champagne rugby.
Possibly stealing the show and the crowd’s support could be the ‘South African Rugby Legends’ – amalgamating some domestic rugby royalty in the shape of Deon Kayser, Breyton Paulse, Joost van der Westhuizen, Joel Stransky, Rassie Erasmus and Corné Krige! Challenging them in the Premier League will be the talented Vodacom Western Province and Gauteng’s Puma team possessing Super 14 and international experience. Both Skinstad and Fleck have promised to trot onto the paddock at some point another treat for the Capetonians and visitors to Hamilton and there promises to be plenty of familiar faces kicking around on site.
“Fleckie and I have played social rugby all over the world – and we love it. Now, we have a chance to reciprocate and play host to all the wonderful characters and legends of the game that we have had so many good times with,” says Skinstad.
Although there is very much a domestic feel to the teams entering this year’s event, the tournament committee is confident that sides from all over the world will make the trip to the Mother City in years to come given the exposure that the event has generated.
Jumping on the bandwagon of similar commercialised shortened versions of sport, such as 20:20 cricket, Skinstad and his cohorts readily believe that there is a genuine bright future for the sport. Dan Carter was supposed to be on show at Hamilton in an ambassadorial role (before injuring himself playing for Perpginan) again illustrating the esteem that the event is held in amongst rugby’s elite. A comprehensive marketing and PR campaign was conducted over the last few months in the form of some entertaining videos and launch parties with Skinstad’s gleaning smile and the mischievous Fleck’s banter amusing all.
So much more than Rugby
If you haven’t been to Cape Town then it has to be added to your travelling resume. Although the monstrous Table Mountain steals the headlines there is plenty else to wow you. You could keep in the rugby community and visit former Bok Robbie Kempson’s White Shark Diving Company or chill out and sample some African grapes at the Stellenbosch and Franschhoek wine routes. For those who feel a break away should be spent on the beach and on the dance-floor then CT simply won’t disappoint.
“Cape Town, the city, is a brand and it’s a brand that we intend to sell to the world. Our rationale behind hosting this event here is to get past players, current players and just about anybody that wants to, to come out to Cape Town,” added Fleck.
“It has everything here, from beautiful beaches, to beautiful women, to amazing scenery, wine farms and some pretty unique shopping. If people are prepared to travel somewhere to play rugby, they should come to Cape Town for the full package.”
Cape Town Tens – Have a jol!