The Kings must stay

The business end of Super Rugby might be delivering, but even more spicy, says Tank Lanning in his Sport24 column, are the scheduled promotion / relegation matches.

So as we ease into the business end of Super Rugby with permutations such that on the one hand, we could be relying on the new tournament format to get the Bulls their third place on the log and a guaranteed home quarter final, yet with 3 teams in the finals mix, while on the other hand, if things turn out well for the Bulls, they could top the log by beating the Sharks and Stormers, with the Cheetahs sneaking a home quarter final.

Such has been the tournament this year, with SuperBru picks having become a complete lottery given the unpredictability of results. Thankfully, as it keeps this monstrosity of a tournament interesting. And the myriad of permutations that remain will make these last two rounds fascinating, with each game eroding one or two of the permutations, until we are left with a final log, which will definitely only be finalised after that final league game between the Stormers and the Bulls at Newlands.

But lurking on horizon here in a sunny South Africa is perhaps an even more interesting Super Rugby conundrum … That of the promotion / relegation matches between the Kings and the Lions!

Set to take place on July 26 and August 2, the same weekends as the Super Rugby semi-finals and finals, there are a whole host of complexities that come with these games, one of which is who the hell Elton Jantjies will play for should the Stormers sneak into either the semis or final.

But that is a mere side-show given the ramifications of the two games …

Although it does point to something that I have long maintained … That we (and Australia and even New Zealand it seems) simply cannot sustain 5, let alone 6, competitive Super Rugby franchises, especially in the tournament’s current player destroying guise. Hence the farce that has been the loaning out of Lions players during the course of the year.

Perhaps the plan is to keep both franchises alive until 2015, when SARU will be hoping to include a 6th franchise in what will no doubt be an even bigger, TV money driven, player killing and player chasing-away Super Rugby beast?

But as it stands, we have 6 franchises fighting for 5 places, with 2 matches taking place in a months’ time set to decide that 5th spot …

And my question is this … Can we actually afford to lose the Kings?

Forget the results and on-field performance, which have been nothing short of earth shattering for a team competing in its first ever Super Rugby tournament. Forget the monumental amount of money that has been spent on getting the franchise, and its structures, going. Forget the petty, and perhaps not so petty, politicking that has sadly formed part of this process. Forget the fact that players were brought in to achieve quick fix results given the ludicrous call to only give them a year to prove themselves …

How can it be deemed fair to hit the snooze button on an alarm that is quite clearly waking up the slumbering rugby giant that is the Eastern Cape?

Sure Lions fans will argue that it was unfair to issue the anaesthetic to a region so densely populated, and thus filled with potential, but they hardly made good use of their time in the sun, both in terms of result and bums on seats at Ellis Park.

Given the success of the Gauteng based Chiefs, Pirates, Wits, and SuperSport United football sides in the PSL, would it not make sense to deem that area more of a football, rather than a rugby, feeder area and thus focus academy, skills and development resources on that sport?

And with there being a mere 68.5 km’s between Joburg and Pretoria, the latter sporting a rugby franchise that might top the Super Rugby log this year, it does not seem that unfair to ask those with an inclination toward rugby to make the commute? Tommy Loubser would have given his left pinky for such a short commute to practice!

Sure I am over simplifying matters, but we do tend to over complicate things at times. And my question remains … Can we now actually afford to lose the Kings?

My answer would be an unequivocal “No”!


  1. The Lions had the richest and most densely populated city and emtro area for how many decades now?

    They failed to make use of it, and a patchwork Kings outfit has shamed them. They must stay in the wilderness.

    Can you imagine wat Aussie rugby would do with the human and economic resources of Jozi? That Soweto with 3 million+ people doesn’t have a feared rugby club is an indictment on those at Ellis Park.

  2. I was very doubtful regarding the Kings at the start of the year. Now my view is that they have done surprisingly well with no real stars and
    big name players.
    They have been well coached and have adopted a game plan to suite their strengths, and it has worked quite well for them.

    I would be sad to see them go down but I do not have any idea of how to accommodate them and the Lions !!

  3. I agree Tank. I was a “anti-kings” guy in the beginning of the season. Not against the players, but against management and the way the whole debacle was handled.

    However, I found myself watching more Kings games this year than probably Lions games in the past 5 years.

    Living in JHB it is sad not having games at Ellis Park, it is a iconic stadium, but if that is the price to pay to see the excitement and will to excel, which the Lions have lacked in the past, then I will pay that price.

    I think the fact that there is promotion/relegation, has driven teams to pull their heads out of their *&$#@ and perform. Lions had a good season out of SR, the Kings did superb and my Cheetahs even came to the party.

    In the end, this all turned out to be a good move.

  4. Although the question is kings or no kings?, it is in fact how many teams can SA sustain in SR, and your comments on this is spot on. The answer is we can put 4 competitive teams in and one wooden spoon, and this has been proven over the life span of SR. Then one can ask which teams are competitive?, well the ones with the biggest purses. This then opens a topic you have successfully addressed before, a nationalized player management system.
    On the other side just imagine if all our players playing abroad was playing SR as well, SA would destroy the competition. there once again we cant keep them here because of money.

    In the end money tops rugby, that is why are leaning more and more to watching club rugby for now it is still true to the spirit of rugby.

    In my opinion the Kings debacle is only the tip of the ice berg.

  5. Slumbering rugby giant that is the Eastern Cape. Tank, stop kidding yourself. Any of these names ring a bell?
    Tim Kwizera, Simta Cakwe, O Joyi, Kholo Ramashala, Bulelani Mbuqua, Sihle Mtwa, Bongani Zwane, Alton Dianaye, Saziso Jali, Lucky Thabiso, Sandile Buthelezi, Sifundo Moyakhe, Thembelani Bholi, Alungile Jita, Madoda Yako, Sinethemba Gxogxo, Chuma Faas – to name but a few.
    They are originally all from the slumbering rugby giant, the Eastern Cape. Every year everyone in rugby rushes off at Easter to St Johns, St Stithians or Kearsney looking to see what the slumbering giant has to offer. And next week, every one will be at trudging off to Polokwane to see what the slumbering giant has on offer. Oh, no doubt the slumbering giant will produce its normal share of “junior professional” contracts because there are certain criteria to be filled.
    The quicker this country gets “real” the better.
    Lets have a look at just some of the current Kings players and their origin. Schalk Fierrera, Hannes Franklin, SP Marais, Demetri Catrakilllis, Andries Struass to name but a few – all from the slumbering giant? – I don’t think so.
    Tank, I have just seen over a number of years to many young lives shattered, dreams destroyed by this supposed slumbering giant.

  6. Before you write off the Lions for a region that has never been a force in SA rugby one should rather look at how to get them to the level they should be considering that the Bulls and the Lions:

    – represent four provinces (Gauteng, Mpumalanga, North West & Limpopo) that include five unions and a sub-union
    – represent 49% of SA’s population
    – Predator League includes four Varsity Cup (Tuks, UJ, PUKKE & Wits) and five Community Cup teams (Brakpan, Roodepoort, Impala, Pretoria Police and Raiders)
    – have 46 schools represented at this year’s u/18 Craven Week (Lions 26, Bulls 20)
    – have 33 young black players at this year’s u/18 Craven Week

  7. Well done to Siyabonga. You mentioned some points that many others would prefer to ignore. Many years ago Louis Luyt was bashed an berated for doing his job but he got it done. These days it does not look like TRU are doing much work at grassroots to develope resources. Your point is made.

    Neil, Dude! You mention a heap of players currently playing for the Kings who are not originally from the region. Well pointed out. What you neglected however is the players who are playing in other unions who came from EP at some point. This has happenned in other parts of the country too with players moving from Province to province.

    I like the idea of promotion relegation game (should be either one or best of three though) as I feel it will give some insight into the potential strength for the next season. It will also be some great rugby, bodies on the line sort of stuff, the type of games that make a man sit on the edge of his seat with his beers stocked up as he will not want to miss a second of the action…

    I think there should be a fair amount of recognition going to the coaching staff of the Kings for having done a sterling job in some pretty trying situations given politics and timelines. Well done boys!

    This particular Aussiekaner will be looking forward to the PROMO games hoping they air them here (probably not). I will be hoping for a Kings victory but more importantly a victory for South African Rugby. I feel they just might need it this year.

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