Take a bow you Kinky Kings! That was a
start to Super Rugby that not many of us predicted for the newbies from PE. In
fact, only 14% of all SuperBru players picked this win, with the average pick being
Force by 11. And SuperBru is a pretty good indicator these days.
No matter the opposition (and I have a
feeling that the Force are going to be shown up as the walking bonus point this
year), the reaction to the win by both players and fans showed the passion for
rugby in the region. Yes there has been a lot wrong with how the Kings concept
has been handled by almost all parties involved, but to come through all that
and sneak a win in their first game at this level - something not done by any
team that has joined the tournament late - is something worth celebrating.
One got the feeling that it was about the
badge and the jersey for the players, almost a throwback to the amateur era
where rugby was about a community doing something they loved doing in order to
share a pie and a beer afterwards - often with the opposition as well!
And there was a little of that in Maties
win over Tukkies in Monday night’s Varsity Cup humdinger.
With half of last year’s SA Under-20 side
playing for Tukkies, along with giant lock Paul Willemse - a man bought from
the Lions by the Bulls, and one who is on record in saying that he wants to
play for the Springboks this year - it is palpably clear to all that this side
from Pretoria is a fully professional unit.
In fact, overheard at the ground on Monday
evening was a comment from a Bulls official that went along the lines of "It’s
great for us (the Bulls) to be able to run two concurrent squads so we can give
guys like Willemse a run" implying that no longer is the Tukkies side a mere
student side playing Varsity Cup rugby, it is a side being managed by the Bulls
And yet the all student, mostly amateur
Maties side were able to pull off an unlikely victory. And a bit like the Kings
victory on Saturday, this down to passion, guts and wanting to do it for a
One has to wonder if this is indeed the
road that Varsity Cup rugby should be traversing, though?
I am told there are two divergent camps
among the powers that be. One says who cares about the rules regarding
student eligibility and money being paid to players, let’s put the best players
and standard of rugby out there on Monday nights. The other camp is more about
keeping the tournament amateur, encouraging young men to study something that
will help them in their post rugby careers, and letting the rugby take care of
No matter which camp you find yourself in,
the one thing that is clear is that the rules need to be the same for everyone.
And if Varsity Cup choose the more professional path, they will eventually lose
the likes of Maties, Ikeys and Wits, because those universities simply will not
change their entrance requirements or downgrade their degrees on offer.
For the Kings, though, there is no debate.
Super Rugby is a fully professional tournament that will see them taking on the
best provincial sides in the world. With passion for the jersey and support
from the community not being enough to sustain a season long campaign.
What a start, though!
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 Grunt …
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