The Kings and Cheetahs conundrum

    2017-07-22 07:14

    Cape Town - It's no secret the Kings and Cheetahs have been the worst-performing South African teams over the last couple of seasons, but Oscar Sanders believes they deserve to remain part of the southern hemisphere's flagship franchise competition. 

    Yes, it is true that Super Rugby needs a reduction of teams to improve the overall product that has seen live match figures down and viewership numbers at an all-time low. But why not axe the Jaguares and Sunwolves, as Lions coach Johan Ackermann contested earlier this week. 

    It is incredibly short-sighted to want to kill off the Kings after only a three-year history in the competition. There has never been national support from the South African Rugby Union to promote Eastern Cape rugby, which is a veritable goldmine for talent. 

    And as we have witnessed in 2017, this goldmine has exploded into life. After two previous attempts finishing 15th and 17th, the Kings have greatly improved to finish 11th on the table. They secured wins in Australia, Argentina and Singapore for the first time.

    But more notably, they beat the Sharks at home and the Bulls away before narrowly losing to the Cheetahs, once again at home. They have endeared themselves to the rugby world as one of the most entertaining sides in the competition, playing scintillating ball-in-hand attacking rugby. 

    A number of Kings players were rewarded with SA 'A' call-ups. And Deon Davids, as head coach, has been a revelation. Quietly going about his business, his influence has been understated as he has done an exceptional job and is surely a mentor that SARU need to invest in for the future. 

    If SARU are serious about transformation, they cannot continue to neglect the Eastern Cape, a haven for black talent, in favour of the rest of the country. 

    Just like the Kings, the Cheetahs are a franchise that regularly churn out some of the best talent in the country. 

    In fact, the Cheetahs have been treated as nothing more than a feeder team to the wealthier South African franchises, especially the Sharks. But besides the culling of Cheetahs talent, there is the small (or not so small) matter of them being Currie Cup champions which shows they are still a highly competitive outfit.

    It is high time the provincial agendas, politics and protection of old ways is consigned to history in South African rugby so the sport can thrive across the country.

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