Lions on loan adds to farce

Thursday morning … So time for s sneak preview of Tank Lanning’s Sport24 column:

Tank Lanning
And so the Lions players make like an Italian captain and jump from the badly listing Super Rugby free ship like rats out of an aqueduct …
It’s difficult to keep track of who is going where, but the Stormers seem set to become the biggest beneficiary of this little farce as tighthead prop Pat Cilliers and flanker Michael Rhodes sign permanent contracts with the men under the mountain, while both flyhalf Elton Jantjies and centre Jaco Taute are rumoured to have signed loan agreements with them. Lionel Mapoe is seemingly off to the Bulls and Franco van der Merwe is moving to the Sharks.
This as the Kings ask SARU for permission to play more foreign players and sign contracts with Lions hooker Bandise Maku, WP flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis, Argentina scrumhalf Nicolas Vergallo and Blues utility back Hadleigh Parkes!
It’s just the little details, they say – like what happens should the Stormers face the Lions in the post season promotion-relegation match – that now need to ironed out before the deals are concluded.
My oath … What a bloody farce!
And it comes as a direct result of the Kings being given a ludicrous single year in which to prove themselves in what many people call the toughest provincial competition in the world. Ask the Force, Rebels and Cheetahs how that first year in Super Rugby worked out for them.
And SARU will use money from its own coffers to pay the Lions the same amount as the Stormers, Cheetahs, Bulls, Sharks and Kings are set to receive from the SANZAR TV money, to keep them alive. Meaning that money that could have been used for development or academies will be used to try and sustain a 6th franchise. This while the Lions and Cheetahs have been proving that just 5 franchises are beyond the scope of the player resources in South Africa.
So instead of the Kings being used to develop a region rich in rugby talent that has sadly been left to rot for a little too long, they are now under pressure to win at all costs and are thus signing players from overseas and the other franchises. This while the Lions see that promotion/relegation match in 2013 as their lifeline, and are doing everything they can to retain their players until then. And who can blame either franchise? It’s survival of the fittest after all …
If the Eastern Cape is seen as a region deserving of revival (and I would be in that camp), the Kings should have been granted an extended stay in Super Rugby, sans win requirements, but with other targets in place that would require them to both develop and use only Eastern Cape grown talent.
And that would then have required SARU to have made a tough but permanent call as to how the other 5 franchises fit into the remaining 4 available spots. Some forward planning – it’s not as if they have not had enough time given how long this Kings fiasco has been hanging around – and a few tough calls were needed.
Instead we have this current “Player loan agreement” farce that depends on what happens in the promotion / relegation match, and the staffing of 6 franchises, using SARU money, while only 5 play, in an environment where 4 would be optimum. Cor blimey …


  1. “So instead of the Kings being used to develop A REGION RICH IN RUGBY TALENT……”. Tank, those words in capital letters have been exhausted over the last 12 years, possibly even more. Every year at the easter school festivals everyone waits in anticipation to see what the likes of Dale, Selborne, Queens etc has on show. Every year you hear the same sentiments being echoed – “their is a huge amount of talent amongst those schools”. Come Coca Cola week and 99.9% of the time EP,Border & SWD are poor and in some instances absolutely crap. Yes, many from these teams get signed by the major franchises – the question is, WHY? The answer is not rocket science.

    1. Yep, fair point, and I get what you are saying … Might also be a lack of having the carrot of a proper senior side that is pulling people up. Lets call a spade a spade – there are a lot of black rugby players in the Eastern Cape, and it would be worth investing in trying to offer them good coaching and life skills. That should be part of the Kings directive …

  2. Hi Tank this is a very sad scenario for me, but nevertheless. I agree with the 4 teams only in super rugby, Look what the concept has done for CC. Every weekend every game is competitive, It is quality and not quantity rugby. It is only sad that the springbok players will return and spoil it all, and deprive the chaps who has played the whole tournament from playing in semis and finals.
    I don’t think we are going to see that Kings Lions relegation match, Cheeky Watson will make sure the Kings stay at least another season. For exactly that reason you can’t evaluate a team on one season’s performance.
    I agree by adding a 6th team we will only be weakening all 6 teams overall. Yes we have enough people in this country to pick 6 teams, but we do not have enough talented players for 6 teams to be competitive at superugby level.
    It kind off defines the purpose when the Kings contract stars from outside their borders.

    Lets take it down to the bone, it is an age old problem of the white afrikaner, it is everybody for himself, my own farm, my own church, my own province, my own team. But we cannot give ourselves the blame for this one, it is just ironic that SARU and the unions have that same mentallity at this stage, instead they should all be comming together and do what is the best for SA rugby and keep SA competitive on the world stage. I mean we should be owning this Super rugby and Rugby champions tournaments.

    Sorry Tank this is your colum, and here i am writing a colum of my own.

    1. Shot James … Nail on the head. By giving every province a vote on the SARU Exco, and with them looking after themselves, not the greater good of SA rugby, we will always be going backwards … Old school methodology in a new school environment …

  3. While agreeing without question that one year is ludicrous, I think the only thing more astounding is the fact that the local business community in Port Elizabeth do not back the local rugby scene as they so easily could. There are naturally questions which need to be asked of the EPRU as well since they now have a top of the range stadium with lots of seats to fill.

    For many years EP’s greatest problem was losing talent to other provinces for various reasons… mostly money and opportunitity. Lets not forget that politics also needs to take some of the blame.

    In schoolboy and under 21 rugby in the mid 90’s, it was no secret that some of the wealthier unions approached various players from smaller unions (EP, Border, SWD etc) to move to larger centres and try for the big time. Some players were lured with interesting career prospects and often bursaries to study both of which were becoming more and more scarce. The result is that even if the recruit did not make the provincial squad or higher they were now at a stage where in many instances they were ready to settle down and so very often did not return to the old province. Thus the unions of the bigger provinces generally remained the powerhouses as they retained much of the talent, even if at squad or club level. I think this had a marked effect on the state of the union as it currently stands.

    Much needs to be done to ensure EP are given a fair shake at this Super Series challenge, naturally it would help if big business got behind the EPRU and lay down a deal where certain returns or KPI’s needed to be met.

    EPRU could also look at setting strategies in place in order to fill the stadium which would raise much needed revenue. On a recent trip back to South Africa, I in fact went to watch a game in PE with EP playing SWD. now I know they are two small teams but the turnout was shocking. The rugby was good enough and quality was worth the ticket price but what struck me was the low attendance for the massive stadium. EPRU need to get bums in seats. If there are tickets left over, throw the bloddy gates open and let all kids, accompanied by adults go in for free. the adults will still be pestered to pay for cooldrinks, snacks etc which will add to revenue and the bigger the crowd, the better the spirit. I mean on just about any given game day at Kings Park or Newlands there is great gees.

    In short one season is too short, EP need to address the loyalty of crowds by offering something and retaining players and local business needs to help. I think they can produce the results if the conditions are right.

  4. Somewhere in the depths of the Super Rugby regulations there must be details of drafting players from one franchise area to another. We don’t really use this in SA but New Zealand use it quite a lot. Heinke vd Merwe playing a season for the Sharks is one SA precedent that I can recall. It would seem a better route than all these ad hoc “loans”.

    As for 6 franchises being too many – maybe it is now but in time you build that depth just by having more players exposed to top level rugby and improving as a result. France run 14 top division teams and England run 12, of which 6 or 7 from each qualify for the European Cup. The limiting factor is economic, not the number of players. They just need to maintain their income, mostly from sponsorship and ticket sales.

  5. Tank, I wish you journos would stop talking about promotion and relegation i.t.o what’s happened with the Lions and the Kings.

    Promotion & relegation implies a two tier system, which Super Rugby doesn’t have, where one team is relegated to a lesser competition while the other is promoted from it, as is the case with the Currie Cup.

    Fact is, the Lions was fired and the Kings was appointed in their place.

    And should the play-off matches happen next year there still will be no promotion/relegation. It will be a straight froward knockout competition.

    One can talk about reducing the number of teams in SR till you’re blue in the face – not going to happen. In fact, it will be expanded further from 2016 to accommodate the PI’s and Americas and the only way I see that working is if it goes to a two tier system with 9 or 10 teams in each tier.

    Oh and SA will not get a 6th franchise either. The Aussies and Kiwis want to expand east, not give SA more teams.

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