Rugger - The History, Theory and Practice of Rugby Football

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For example, the smallest variation in figures is 5. As already emphasized, each competition has its own logic, but also while the Springboks played between 10 and 12 matches every year, Super Rugby teams played 60 to 70 and Currie Cup sides over Two or three changes in the Springbok line-up might therefore alter numbers deeply. Yet two central positions display above average black participation while three peripheral positions include few blacks. At the central position of fullback, deviations from the mean scores are quite significant, ranging from 1.

One figure is marginally lower than the mean score by 1. However, in all three competitions, black scrumhalves get relatively more caps than their proportion among players, which indicates that they are often relied upon as starters, which is not the case for fullbacks blacks are less trusted at that position than whites. This outlier must be relativized by the fact that blacks obtained only As of , no black man had played number 8 for the Springboks or a Super Rugby franchise, though blacks accounted for one sixth of Currie Cup eighthmen.

The most spectacular result is at wing, the only position where blacks form the racial majority, reaching an astounding At the other most peripheral position, prop, blacks are also overrepresented compared to the mean scores. Centre is the other peripheral position with above average black involvement, though blacks get fewer caps and game time in comparison with their proportion in all teams and deviations grow in line with the level of competition as was the case for fullbacks.

But the peripheral positions of flanker and lock make little room for blacks. With the Springbok, the situation is similar to hooker: blacks accounted for It reveals that all positions are prone to a degree of stacking: two central positions accommodate blacks largely above average black participation, whites being stacked in the three others, while blacks are stacked in three peripheral positions and whites in the other two.

Table 4: Positional stacking in South African rugby. Three preliminary remarks must be made. First, the history of race relations impacted sports as much as other aspects of South African society, but rugby and, though to a lesser extent, cricket are the only sports that have given rise to such polemical polarization, as they were utilized as symbols of white power.

Secondly, the massive increase in black players of the early s was fuelled by official positive discrimination policies used in the workplace, which were imported into rugby in the form of quotas imposed on Currie Cup teams originally, the five south-western provinces had to field at least two blacks at any moment, the other nine at least one. Cros, , p. Super Rugby and test rugby were not submitted to quotas though political pressure incited coaches to select more blacks.

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Quotas resulted in a considerable increase of black players until and their interruption was followed by an irregular evolution Figure 2. Finding a perfect race logic explaining the positional repartition of players is hindered by the contrasted situations in the different teams and competitions.

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Six positions reveal patterns broadly consistent with previous centrality research, but four actually contradict it. The first category includes peripheral positions in which blacks are overrepresented, wing, prop and centre, and the central positions of fly-half, number 8 and hooker where whites are massively overrepresented.

As a former British colony with a tense racial history, where white domination still runs deep, democratic South Africa shares several features with the USA, the United Kingdom and Australia, where the phenomenon was observed. South African rugby seems to be in the same league as team sports in other English-speaking countries where non-whites are at a disadvantage in sports dominated by white values and ethos, sometimes suffering from downright racist attitudes, because of Western-based stereotyping about black and mixed-race athletes see for instance Carrington, Such social Darwinist generalization of human qualities and flaws ascribed permanently to a group blocks out possibilities of change and blacks are kept in roles consonant with their alleged place.

If winning — the outcome — is the only measure to gauge the impact of race, then this policy was proved right in and when the Springboks won the trophy despite fielding only one and two black wings as starters, and finished third in with one black wing. However, they were eliminated at the quarterfinal stage in with one black wing and with two black wings. Only a year later, there were seven non-whites four starters, including three wings and fullbacks, and three substitutes on the Bulls team that crushed the Chiefs of New Zealand However, these cases reveal the high symbolical as much as concrete premium put on physicality, which in our view must be considered as a factor of centrality in South African rugby.

Whites are taller than other racial groups in the country, entertaining the idea that only whites can be recruited as forwards 4. Blacks are less used at centre than at fullback and wing because though they are peripheral three-quarters, centres are expected to display physicality their missions include barging through the defence and tackling ferociously. Since , the smallest Springbok centres have all been black. At flanker, another position where physicality is essential, the necessary body types are more readily available across racial groups, and indeed there is a relatively high proportion of black flanks in the Currie Cup, but there seems to be a glass ceiling that blocks their progress into Super Rugby and test rugby.

This is probably because of the dominant racial model of what a South African flanker must be, essentially a fierce solid tackler, who is more likely to be white than black. Why then is prop, the position where weight and power are necessary conditions to top level success, relatively open to blacks when it should be a fully white domain? This suggests that individual cases or exceptions cannot be discarded. It is all about genetics Quoted in Rich, Emphases mine.

It is always complicated to prove intentional discrimination but sheer numbers indicate that positional imbalance according to race exist with six of the ten positions displaying heavy stacking patterns, while the other four deviate significantly from the mean scores in one or several competitions.


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More than one perfect global explanation, we believe that a variety of factors are at play, some having been previously observed in other parts of the world, especially in North America. Our findings are partly consistent with previous research on theoretical centrality in sports, as the model we defined provided an appropriate framework for four positions. The Anglocentric hypothesis, intimately linked to the pattern of black athleticism and innate talent vs.

However, none of these explanations provided a perfect interpretation grid for the central positions of scrumhalf and fullback, which record large black participation, and the peripheral positions of lock and flanker, which are almost entirely white. Ultimately we believe that sociological explanations specific to the host societies need to be accounted for to understand the complex stacking mechanisms.

Rugby union is played in many different countries, most being English-speaking, and international comparisons would help to refine the Anglocentric hypothesis. The rise of coloured and black staff in professional clubs needs to be assessed too, not just numerically but also in comparison with the racial and positional composition of teams to determine if an increased presence of black coaches translates into higher proportions of black players.

Desegregation being very much a process that has just begun in South Africa, black involvement will need monitoring at regular intervals, though the fact that small numbers were used made us relativize some unexpected results as the inclusion or exclusion of a handful of individuals may alter statistics by several percentage points particularly at test level. Adhikari, M. Not white enough, not black enough: Racial identity in the South African coloured community. Anderson, B. London: Verso first published in Rugby union positions guide.

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Best, C. Experience and career length in professional football: The effect of positional segregation. Sociology of Sport Journal , 4 4 , Blalock, H. Occupational discrimination: Some theoretical propositions. Social Problems , 9 Spring , pp.

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Carlin, J. Playing the enemy: Nelson Mandela and the game that made a nation. New York: The Penguin Press. Carrington, B. Race, sport and politics. The sporting black diaspora. Coakley, J. Sport in society: Issues and controversies 6 th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill. Craven, D.

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Rugby handbook. Cros, B. In Perrot, C. Curtis, J. Positional segregation in professional baseball: Replications, trend data and critical observation. International Review of Sport Sociology , 4 13 , Edwards, H. Sociology of sport. Homewood, IL: Dorsey Press. Eitzen, D.

The segregation of blacks by playing position in football: Accident or design? Social Science Quarterly , 55, pp. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education , 1 4 , Grusky, O.


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  • The effect of formal structure on managerial recruitment: A study of baseball organization. Sociometry , 26 3 , Hallinan, C. Aborigines and positional segregation in Australian Rugby League. International Review for the Sociology of Sport , 26 2 , Hawkins, B. Is stacking dead? International Sports Journal , 6 2 Summer , International Rugby Board. Johnson, B. Sociology of Sport Journal , 12 1 , Jones, G. Racial discrimination in college football.

    Social Science Quarterly , 68 1 , XV postes par XV joueurs. Lavoie, M. In search of an alternative explanation of stacking in baseball: The uncertainty hypothesis.

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