THERE was an outcry yesterday from angry EP Kings rugby fans after it was announced that injury-plagued skipper Luke Watson would only return to the playing field in the middle of the Vodacom Cup, at the end of April.
Supporters had been expecting Watson to lead the Kings out against the Free State Cheetahs in a friendly at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium tomorrow night.
On the team’s Facebook fan page Kings #Red&BlackArmy aired their views on Watson’s absence from the team.
The debate was started by the founder of the Kings Army Supporters Club, Stuart Weir, who posted a picture of The Herald’s back page which said Watson would not be playing until late April.
He kicked off by writing: “Kings want to ensure he is fit for the Currie Cup, Really? Only at the Kings. This wouldn’t happen at any other side in South Africa or the world. Playing the game is the best way to get/keep fit.
“Hard to understand the thinking. Next year he will have to play hard rugby from late January (Super Rugby) and Currie Cup until October. All the other players seem to do it (and throw in Springbok games) – you have to start wondering if it’s the case of the tail wagging the dog.
“It is extremely hard to continue supporting a player that is always wrapped up in cotton wool at some time. The asset is no more than a liability. Supporters want to see Luke lead from the front where we know he can make the difference.”
When it was announced that Watson would be returning to the team later, Kings chief executive Charl Crous said: “Luke has fully recovered from the concussion he suffered last year and the medical staff have mapped out his re-entry into the team which will see him return during the middle of the Vodacom Cup competition.”
Watson went off with bad concussion at Loftus Versfeld in August last season and missed the last seven games of the Currie Cup Premier Division.
His absence means giant lock David Bulbring will lead the team against the Cheetahs in their first outing of the new season.
The news that Watson’s return had been delayed saw strong criticism directed at the player by fans, while a few offered their support.
Tony Siepman said: “Come now supporters. Don’t kick a man when he is down. He will be back when he is ready. Let’s get behind our captain instead of always knocking him.”
Jan Engelbrecht wrote: “I think we stop [criticising] Luke and see if he is on the field by April. And if he is not on the field then we have every right to criticise Luke as well as the management.”
Dean Miller commented: “The only way to get fit is to play the bloody game, are we only going to see Luke for 90 min again this season.”
Ronni Scheckle wrote: “He should be made to play club rugby, might get some of that fat and attitude out of him. For his salary we could probably get 2-3 other decent players who want to play rugby.
“At present we have two teams in the Community Cup, these blokes are very fit and have had two games behind them. The teams playing against them have provincial players contracted into them to get them match fit. There is nothing like a match to sort out fitness. Certain of our players think sitting in coffee bars helps.”
Jaco Kruger wrote: “As long as the Kings are comfortable with this we won’t be winning anything any time soon.”
Jonker Fourie’s take on the issue was: “I wish I could be paid a fortune to do nothing.”
Lucian Forlee said: “Just a moment of wondering out loud. Would [Paul] Perez be playing for us this season had the emphasis been the same for him as with Luke? The question also extends to the many ‘ others’ who have departed to greener pastures or been axed prematurely.”
Other comments were short and sharp. Michael Kliment: “Now this is pathetic.” Lawrence Muller: “No play, no pay?” Nikki Da Silva: “Who’s your daddy.” Steven Riches: “Told you.” Grant Breetzke: “Laugh a minute.”