In 1973 Cheeky Watson scored the match-winning try for Graeme College against Bishops. As a 21-year-old, he played for the Eastern Province team which lost 28-13 to the All Blacks in 1976. He played wing for the Junior Springboks in the same year. The man could play.
He declined an invitation to participate in the Springbok trials, though, instead joining the Spring Rose Rugby Football Club in the township of New Brighton in Port Elizabeth.
Together with 13 black players, at a time when inter-racial sports meetings were prohibited, he played for Kwaru against the South Eastern Districts Rugby Union in the Dan Qeqe stadium in KwaZakhele township.
He used rugby to take on an unfair regime who used race to discriminate. He was part of a struggle that gave up a huge amount personally in order to eventually see some sort of right emerge from the wrongs.
“He done good” as they say in the classics.
But “He no do so good no more” ...
The time has come for him to step away from the car crash in slow motion that is the Kings, and allow someone else to take a stab at running what could still be a success story.
Yes, it’s difficult to imagine any sort of success given the current fiasco, but prior to it becoming a political football being kicked around by whoever needs a few points at the time, at its heart, this project is simply about growing South Africa’s rugby talent pool.
That the talent is already there makes success a real possibility. That it is primarily about black talent makes it vitally important. Sadly it’s also why all the political meddling has gone on.
Dale, Selborne, Queens, Outeniqua, Grey High, Kingswood, Muir and St Andrews could all be found in the top 60 rugby playing schools in the country last year. Throw in the likes of Cheeky’s old school, Graeme, Woodridge, Pearson, Hudson and Framesby, and one has an incredible existing infrastructure in which to invest.
For me, real development takes place in existing rugby structures like schools and clubs as they offer a true rugby culture. Speaking of which, the Kings also have to be about developing and nurturing a culture specific to the region that players can buy into.
But for whatever reasons, this is not happening under Watson. In business, the person who comes up with a concept is most often not the one who is best suited to implementing it. Could this be the case in PE?
SARU had to take ownership of the Southern Kings order to ready the franchise for Super Rugby amidst the financial crisis that left the EPRU unable to pay player salaries. As such, a provisional liquidation order has been granted against the EPRU in the PE High Court. The clubs' vote of no confidence in Watson was only scuppered because of a technicality that saw some clubs not having the requisite signatures at the AGM.
It’s clearly not working. Livelihoods have literally been destroyed. It’s an embarrassing mess that makes South Africa look like complete plonkers given that we demanded the Kings spot in Super Rugby. The time has come.
Which could provide SA Rugby with an opportunity to try out our first privatised franchise. That the clubs in the Eastern Cape are struggling to get rid of Watson is indicative of the issues facing a rugby infrastructure that carries too many amateur era structures. SA Rugby has the General Council made up of every province in SA carrying the same vote. In the Cape, the WPRU president spends far too much of his time carrying favour with the 90 odd clubs that vote him in and out. It might provide a form of check and balance, but it also slows everything down.
How about a privately owned franchise in PE, run like a normal business, but as per a Super Rugby and Currie Cup participation charter that focuses on developing home grown talent and culture?
Tank Lanning is a former Western Province prop, current editor of the all new www.vodacomrugby.co.zawebsite that allows you to rate the SA players, and vociferous Tweeter from @frontrowgrunt. Disclaimer:
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