Front Row Grunt

Rugby … with cauliflower ears


Unfair to target “White” Kings

Tank Lanning believes Cheeky Watson has been unfairly asked to defend his “Too white” team to members of the portfolio committee on sport and recreation in parliament.

And to his credit, as reported on Sport24, Watson admitted that they are ashamed of the current racial demographics of the squad, and said he would make it his mission to correct the matter.

But why only the Kings? It’s not as if their team make up is massively different from the other franchises, who have had years to build their Super Rugby squads, while the Kings have had only months.

Yes the Kings should be about developing (or perhaps redeveloping) the Eastern Province as a rugby talent factory for both black and white players, but as union president Watson said in parliment, SARU’s constant postponement of the decision to award them Super Rugby status in 2013 led to a number of top black players opting against turning out for the Port Elizabeth-based side.

SARU’s decision to give the Kings Super Rugby status was only finalised in August last year.

Watson also has a valid point with regard to SARU only assuring them of one season in Super Rugby, and not three like previously promised, which cost them an investment partner.

It is patently unfair to expect the Kings to harness the player talent in the region after giving them such short notice, and only guaranteeing them just a year in the tournament.

Watson said the Kings were denied luring players such as Elton Jantjies (Stormers), Odwa Ndungane (Sharks), Lwazi Mvovo (Sharks), Lionel Mapoe (Bulls), Akona Ndungane (Bulls) and Siya Kolisi (Stormers) to Port Elizabeth given the situation they find themselves in.

But the Kings should even have been looking to buy in black talent! It was always meant to be about using local talent to reinvent the region. And to do that, the Kings should have been granted an extended stay in the tournament with results being a secondary consideration.

It should have been SARU defending the fiasco in parliament, not the Kings!

Author: Tank

Ex WP prop with a fair amount of experience in all things media ...


  1. If you’re a student of Life you’ll quickly come to realise that Life itself isn’t fair. Luring players from other franchises because of their colour is a bit Cheeky and doesn’t really address the problem!

    • @mdk. Not if they were poached from the Kings region in the first place. It is called trying to bring them back home.

      • Fine… but what does Elton Jantjies have to do with the Kings. He went to school on Joburg. That’s “poaching” and not bringing back players who left.

  2. This post will no doubt generate a wide response. I can’t agree with you this time Tank. He has shouted his mouth off in the past about the rich vein of black talent in the Eastern Cape and what a gold mine his region is. From the time Alan Solomons arrived, what have they done – import players (has beens and never going to beens at that) on exhorbitant salaries. And Watson has the audacity to cry about not having a chance to get players from other franchises. In a few weeks time there are a number of school tournaments coming up – majority of the top Eastern Cape schools will be at these various tournaments as well as all and sundery seeking out the talent on display, especially the “gold mine” of black talent. There will be the normal comments such as, “Wow, Dale/Queens have a great side this year filled with so much black talent” or “have you seen that flyer from Grey High.” There no doubt will be the the normal fat prop/props who looks like his/their only addiction is KFC/Macdonalds. All and sundry will then move on to July and Craven Week filled with anticipation as to what EP and Border schools in particular have produced, only to find that they are as crap as they normally are year in and year out. Will there players get picked for the representative teams or receive contracts from the big franchises? Of course they will – the rules dictate that. Will they play for their respective franchises at U19 and U21 level – of course they will. And after that? What do we hear in so many instances? “How come he is not playing S15 or CC – he played SAU20 and played for XYZ at U19 & 21 level – now they don’t pick him!” Why? – simple, he actually shouldn’t have made those sides in the first place because he was not good enough.
    Until this country grows up and matures and realises that transformation comes from the HEART and not a rule or statutory book, the same cries will go out year after year. Just because someone has a B.Comm MBA and happens to help accumulate BEE points, does not mean he can lead a large corporate company.
    You may recall Tank, a few years back when the Cheetahs Craven Week side had a black hooker – the sad aspect of this was that he played for the Grey College 3rd team and looked like he should have riding in the 3rd race at Kenilworth – why was he playing? You work it out. All I know is that it was an insult to that young man and to his family – he was used to fill a requirement.

    • I agree that there is indeed still a certain amoutn of window dressing going on, with Chiliboy probably being the finest example … He is a top player but was pushed into sides too early. But I think that is on the decline … Also agree fully that it needs to come from the heart and not from laws decreed, but how do you overcome resistance?

      And I still think it is unfair to give the Kings only a year in the tournament and expect them to redevelop the whole region …

  3. Cheeky Watson is a cheeky man. I don’t think that anybody would deny a good player a spot in any team no matter what his skin colour.
    for Cheeky Watson it is all about politics and not about the quality of a player. he must grow up and develop real good talent.

  4. And just to correct a slight wrong. SARU were indeed in the dock with the kings and reiterated their commitment to the Kings from as far back as 2005. There only issue has been to find a way to remove one of the other five franchises to make space for the Kings

  5. Neil, a few flaws in your argument. Firstly “Craven Week filled with anticipation as to what EP and Border schools in particular have produced, only to find that they are as crap as they normally are year in and year out.” EP was the only other unbeaten side apart from the Bulls who won the final, in the 2012 Craven Week. It would probably have been a less one-side final if they and not the Lions played against the Bulls in the final. Furthermore 65% of the Kings academy consist of black players and the make-up of their u/19 and u/21 sides are more than 60% black. And both teams finished top of the log in their section in 2012. Ironically they both lost their promotion/relegation matches to their Southern Kings partners, SWD and Border. The EP Vodacom side that played in the quarter finals had 5 players of colour and 8 of the players in that side was still in the academy in 2011. Although they lost that quarter final to a full strength Puma side full of Currie Cup experience , the average age of the EP side was something like 23 and they still made the quarter finals. If the area did not get SR, most of those players would have been poached by the bigger franchises by now.

  6. Marius you beat me to it.

    Neil how about a bit of research before you speak absolute rubbish?

  7. Marius/David – As I have been involved in rugby for the past 21 years I can assure you I have been to many school Easter tournaments, many school matches and many Craven weeks. In that same time I have many U19, U21 Vodocom matches. I probably watch more rugby in one season than the two of you may have watched over the past 10 years. So I do know what I have seen and witnessed with my own eyes. I also spend much of my time on a weekly basis in conversations with others who happen to be involved in rugby full time. So please do not use 1 year out of decades to justify your point. Please read my post carefully next time.

  8. Marius/David – I have spent many hours consoling young black rugby players whose world has fallen apart on hearing that their original two year franchise contracts are not be renewed. They are dejected and broken – dreams shattered. Why? Not good enough in the long term. In fact they were there because the rules stated they have to be there. Where do a large majority come from – EC. That,like it or not is the farce of SA sport.
    There are only two sporting professions that escape the degrading procedure called transformation and that is golf and being a jockey – the horse does not have a clue what colour is on his/her back and you either good enough or you not to get that little white ball into the hole in fewer shots than everyone else – no freebies.
    As I said, read my post again.