Former Bok coach has high praise for Kings and says PE needs a franchise
Port Elizabeth needs a Super Rugby franchise, according to former Springbok coach Nick Mallet, who has proposed a radical plan that could keep rugby alive in the Eastern Cape.
Mallett, now a television analyst and widely regarded as the voice of South African rugby, wants to see major changes in the way rugby is structured in South Africa.
It has been announced that South Africa must shed two of their franchises as Super Rugby reduces from 18 sides to 15 next season and the Kings and Cheetahs are expected to be the victims.
Mallett has proposed that the country be divided into four regions with Gauteng (Bulls and Lions), KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape (Kings and Cheetahs) and Western Cape making up the four South African franchises.
“I personally think Port Elizabeth needs a franchise,” Mallett said. “Whether you structure it as the Kings or whether you say it is an Eastern Cape franchise and we also have Gauteng, KZN and Western Cape franchises.
“Then you do away with the Bulls and the Lions and all that sort of thing. That would be my answer.”
“If you got the Cheetahs and Kings together and then the Lions and the Bulls, and I am just saying this, and they are not wanting to join.
“I am just saying if there was a Gauteng franchise that drew on those two and an Eastern Cape franchise that drew on the Cheetahs and Kings, we will then keep the majority of our best players and have rugby played in areas that can generate big crowds.
Mallett said Port Elizabeth could put together crowds of 20 000.
“If the people of Port Elizabeth have seen the heart and the courage with which the Kings have played, then go and support them. Support a team that is giving its everything on the field,” he said.
Former Springbok captain Jean de Villiers said it would be difficult to get rid of the Kings.
“The Kings score beautiful tries. If you look at their backline, there is Super Rugby experience from Louis Schreuder, Lionel Cronje, Berton Klaasen, Luzuko Vulindlu and Wandile Mjekevu,” De Villiers said.
“They were probably never starters throughout the season in other teams and they have found their fit at the Kings. Then you add the youngsters, who are so entertaining with so much speed.
“You can see they are a happy bunch and they are enjoying this. They are really showing what the Eastern Cape has got to offer.”
EP Rugby Union president Andre Rademan wants the resurgent Southern Kings to play in Super Rugby next year rather than in a European competition.
“I was so proud of the boys after their win over the Rebels. If you look at what coach Deon Davids is doing with this team and where the team started with no Springboks or big names, what they have achieved is unbelievable. It shows what team work and everyone standing together can do.”
After SA Rugby’s decision to cut two teams, there was speculation that the Kings could play in Europe’s PRO12 competition.
Rademan, however, wants the Kings to play Super Rugby. “I will do everything within my power to secure the continued participation of the Kings in Super Rugby.”
- Meanwhile, the Kings were dealt a blow when prop Justin Forwood was ruled out of action for up to nine months following an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear which he sustained during the Rebels game.