Some people call the Eastern Cape the “Limpopo by the sea”, although I’m sure the residents of the province would refute such a comment as callous and slanderous.
Fact is, these comments have been uttered by government employees on both sides of the political fence, based on various factors, such as financial administration, service delivery, youth league support, and of course their “Ivy League” education system.
It would just be fitting then, that their Super Rugby team-to-be, the Southern Kings, is also hulled in controversy in the coming months, as they most definitely will not be part of Super Rugby in 2013.
However eager one would want to put the blame in front of the likes of incompetent provincial administrators, this mess is solely the failed experiment of the South African Rugby Union (SARU).
SANZAR, the joint governing body over Super Rugby and the Tri-Nations (now the Rugby Championship), has indicated the obvious when they again confirmed that there would be no sixteenth team in Super Rugby until 2015.
The reason this is obvious, is vested in the fact that the current format is contractually fixed with Supersport, Fox Sport and Sky Sport being the big spenders on broadcasting rights for the competition.
Now, herein the problem arises...
The Kings have been waiting for their promised land since 2005, when the initial SARU Presidents council decision to include them in Super Rugby was not honoured; a move that saw them vindicated by the Cape High Court in 2006.
From there it had been a comedy of errors by SARU, eventually leading to the ill-conceived brainchild of the King’s admittance in 2013. And now even that seems highly unlikely, as there is no basis whatsoever to inform the current teams that someone will be relegated, especially not if that decision were taken in the middle of a season.
Obviously, this would unleash a torrent of litigation by the current unions and their sponsors against S.A Rugby and the Eastern Cape unions, of which the outcome will be simple – it would pretty much bankrupt the latter two parties.
None of the current five unions have relegation in their contracts, not to mention the copious amounts of sponsor’s money invested, and highly ticked off fans!
With the South African public accounting for around 6 million of the 11 million viewers as at 2 April 2012, and the S.A home games outpacing the other games by almost 70% in terms of viewer numbers, one would think that SARU had an ace up the sleeve when it comes to negotiating with SANZAR and the broadcasters.
Barring the fact that Supersport pays the most of the three broadcasters, as well as their support towards SARU and the Southern Kings, SANZAR plainly shot down the idea until 2015, making it even more evident that SARU completely over-estimated their influence with the other nations involved.
Be that as it may, SARU are still to blame for this, as they only actively started lobbying on the matter in the past months, something that should have been done years ago.
So, will they be sued? Most certainly they will, it just depends who will wield the sword.
On the one hand the Kings could argue towards substantial losses for not participating for two years and on the other, one of five unions with millions of supporters, backed by millions in sponsors, will be fighting an arbitrary decision by SARU that will, without a doubt, weaken South African rugby.
Whoever it is, and on whatever basis SARU places relegation, it will be war with the average member of the rugby public being the biggest loser.
So, for the first time in years the Eastern Cape is not the one responsible for their own controversy, although they most certainly landed their faces in it.
There’s a reason bad things (although I would want to use the better term) always happen to the same people (or provinces) over and over again...
...and things will only get worse if they actually make it onto the field. Can you imagine what the Crusaders will do to these poor guys!?