Solution for Lions crisis
After the Lions’ humiliation at the hands of the Reds one can hardly find anything else than history to justify their continued participation in the super series competition.
This Lion’s team is one of the worst to represent the Republic in super rugby and it is mystifying how they won the Currie Cup last year. What the dickens did the other teams do wrong?
Anyway, with no evidence or likelihood that the Southern Kings can improve on the Lions’ poor performance a few questions need to be asked.
After two decades of democracy in the Republic and eighteen years’ constant unbundling of the wrongs of Apartheid and injustices of the past, the Kings’ inclusion should not be based on another round of affirmative action.
Jurie Roux, chief executive of SARU, says they are still, at this very late stage, investigating possible solutions for the fiasco caused by the Southern Kings’ politically motivated inclusion in next year’s Super Series competition.
The status quo is that the Lions are for all practical purposes out and the Kings in.
Demands that the Lions should remain in the competition for historic sentiments are not the primary problem SARU, the political puppeteers and the Kings face. Getting a competitive squad to represent the Kings with passion and sustainably, is.
The expectation that the Kings will recruit Lions and overseas players is based on perception and not fact. Most of the Lion’s players have contracts with the union and the latter will, out of principle, not release their players to the Kings.
A few South African players abroad might be lured to the Kings’ den but most will stick to their financially superior overseas arrangements.
The Kings are widely regarded as a nuisance and trouble maker in SA rugby and many players will not associate with them. And, to their surprise, the Watson clan and the other string-masters will find out that there is nothing they can do about that.
Losing the Lions from the competition is bad enough but replacing them with a milk cow for other teams threatens to humiliate and even disgrace SA rugby.
For a real solution SARU should take a passage from Mikhail Gorbachev’s book on strategies of change. Glasnost seems to be the answer; i.e. discuss the problem with extreme honesty and openness; and involve all the franchises.
Instead of an autocratic style of decision making, SARU should open up to its partners in a perestroika-manner.
In an international context glasnost with SANZAR, the backstabbing partner of SARU, is useless as Australia and New Zealand will not make “sacrifices”. In fact, SANZAR have never shown any understanding or sensitivity for the lucrative nature of the South African society.
SANZAR will not allow a 6th SA franchise in a 17 team competition.
Whether South Africa has enough competitive players to fill an extra team is another matter and questionable.
In the past, local franchises could do with a pool of 30 players but with the new, longer and exhausting format teams need at least a pool of 40 players.
South Africa can barely scrape together 200 players for the current franchises and looking for another 40 is maybe a bridge to far.
A solution is to reintegrate the Cheetahs and Lions and to alternate the home games annually between Johannesburg and Bloemfontein; i.e. Johannesburg in 2013 and Bloemfontein in 2014.
On the same basis a merger of the Cheetahs and the Sharks should be considered.
The Stormers merged with the Boland Kavaliers years ago and showed how things could be done.
The most obvious merger is between the Lions and Bulls as only a small river divides them.
Establish the Blue Lions in Pretoria or the Golden Bulls at Ellis Park.
Or unite the North and create a new Bulls team in SOWETO.
Excluding the Lions without a promotion relegation practise seems harsh on the Gauteng-team, but on the other hand the Lions are riddled with financial insecurities and a lack of success and would probably benefit from a one year sabbatical to get their house in order.
In the spirit of glasnost all the franchises should get together with the task to find a solution.
They should, if they think national and not provincial but is that a realistic prospect?
I doubt; provincialism and own interest is simply too strong.
I personally think the solution for the Kings-Lions-situation will come from a source we all expect to provide answers and guidance these days.
Fikile Mbalula, minister of sport said on numerous occasions that he don’t want to be involved in the day to day running of sport codes but that he will intervene if management bodies drag their feet.
In this case SARU clearly dragged its feet and if the minister is consequent he will intervene.
If he does it will be extremely embarrassing for SARU but maybe SARU needs to be embarrassed to motivate them to act timely with key issues and to show real leadership in future.