AFTER reading numerous articles on which South African teams should contest Super 15 rugby next year, I decided to voice my opinion on this so called “sensitive” rugby subject, for what it may be worth to the general public, Saru and our “diehard” rugby fans.
I request that my view and suggestion be considered with an open mind and be seen in the interest of the broader context of rugby in South Africa.
On reading the following on the Saru website, “The organisation believes that continual growth is vital to the future of the sport in South Africa. For rugby to be a national sport it must appeal to – and be played or watched by – a significant percentage of the South African population”, I asked myself three simple and logical questions which Saru and the diehard SA rugby pundits should strongly consider before answering:
Firstly, is it morally viable and fair for the smallest province in the country to have two Super franchises barely 40km apart? Secondly, from where do most of the players from these two franchises originate?
Lastly, does this scenario truly spread the game far and wide, promote meaningful transformation of rugby or genuinely serve the best interests of our country by having both these two neighbour unions playing Super rugby with mainly other provinces’ mercenary players? The answer when considered in the broader rugby context is surely no.
This situation is contrary to and blatantly contradicts Saru’s strategy of taking the game of rugby to all in the country, and promoting and supporting meaningful transformation in South African rugby. It promotes and breeds mercenary-type rugby players who are not dedicated to the actual cause of the franchise involved, but more so to money and Super rugby fame.
These questions, coupled to Saru’s growth and transformation strategy, lead me to the logical conclusion that Saru and the South African rugby fraternity have a moral obligation to ensure the Kings remain in Super Rugby next year, no matter what the outcome of any relegation process. It is in the best interest of the region, the country, the game of rugby and meaningful transformation in rugby for the Kings to remain in Super Rugby next year.
Some followers up north and diehard rugby pundits will be quick to say that the Kings should play their way into Super rugby or wait till 2016 for the expansion of the Super Rugby competition. I remind them that it not unusual in Super 15 rugby for the top teams in a country not to be elevated automatically into Super Rugby.
In Australia, rugby is expanded to other regions by calling for Super 15 franchise proposals and then awarding franchises to new entrants in certain regions, for example the Western Force and the Rebel franchises.
I do believe Saru, the South African rugby fraternity and the diehard rugby pundits and followers should fully apply their minds, and not their hearts and emotions, when considering or making decisions based on these facts. It must be remembered that it does not take a union one season to build a competitive Super Rugby franchise, and any franchise that is only given one year of Super Rugby will have a problem attracting top players and retaining their young players who have come through their school and development structures.
Any such franchise will be doomed to failure. It is for this very reason that I think the Lions should not be awarded a Super franchise for next year, but remain in the Absa Cup.
They can build and beef up their player ranks, using their current strong financial means to attract and import so-called other provinces’ players, like they have done in the past, so they are ready for their entry to an “expanded” Super 16 in 2016.
It cannot be disputed that the Eastern Cape is the biggest and best breeding ground of successful junior and black rugby players in the country. It does not serve the interest of rugby for these players to ply their trade up north or in other franchises, so it is in the interest of Saru, the broader South Africa, rugby in general, rugby in the Eastern Cape and genuine transformation in rugby that we think with our rugby caps on and that the Kings remain in Super rugby next year, no matter what, win or lose in the upcoming relegation play-offs.
It is now time for Saru to grow a spine, to stand up to certain unions, to stop being bullied by these so-called powerful unions, put its money where its mouth is and make a bold decision in the best interests of the region, the broader rugby community and the country. The Kings have risen and will deliver above most challenges, if given a long term fair chance in Super 15 rugby!
Donald Tuck, Uitenhage