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 three 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
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 five, let alone six, 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 sixth 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 six franchises fighting
for five places, with two matches taking place in a months’ time set to decide that fifth 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 anesthetic 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
And with there being a mere 68.5km
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"!
Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up
Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row
Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech
and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published
on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the
views of Sport24.