JJ Harmse

Kings to keep players in SA?

2009-10-22 07:17
JJ Harmse
JJ Harmse

So off we go to arbitration then to decide where the 5th Super 15 side should reside.

Well done SA Rugby, on standing your ground on this issue. Although New Zealand made it clear that they would join their antipodean friends on this issue, SA Rugby stood firm in their commitment to bring another Super franchise to South Africa, and more particular, to the Eastern Cape region, with the Southern Kings being their team.

New Zealand indicated early in proceedings that they cannot afford another team and pulled out, but Australia, behaving like spoilt brats, refused to acknowledge the fact that rugby in their country is played and watched by fewer and fewer people.

They could not even muster a united bid for a 5th team and yesterday, on the day of the official decision by SANZAR, a couple of newspapers down under admitted that they should not have another team.

In previous columns I have criticized SA Rugby for their perceived lack of ability in handling the Aussie CEO, John O’Neill, but Oregan Hoskins has decided to become personally involved in the dealings of SANZAR, and before you could say Jonathan Stones, there has been an improved presence in the alliance by the biggest partner.

SA Rugby’s reasons for supporting the Kings are well documented and justified. Something they have not published in pursuit of this dream, though, is a potential player lineup.

Clearly, they cannot field a strong enough team from the current Border, Eastern Province and SWD region alone. As shown with the Kings in their match against the British and Irish Lions, though, they do have the potential to be competitive with a mix of young upstarts, seasoned professionals and some extras from the big unions.

We often hear about comparisons between the Super 14 and the Heineken Cup and for this exercise, I decided to scan the official media guide of the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup (formerly known as the European Challenge Cup) to see where we could go to get players for the Kings.

I was pleasantly surprised, to the extent of being able to suggest a possible starting team picked from these clubs.

Saracens have the most South Africans in their side of all teams in Europe, many of them fairly recent acquisitions. Now one cannot expect them to rush back to South Africa, but as we saw with John Smit and Victor Matfield and more recently, Gary Botha, no player really wants to leave South Africa in the first place. They would come back if the right offer came along. And the Kings would be such an offer.

Saracens have registered Brad Barritt, Mouritz Botha, Schalk Brits, Neil de Kock, Derick Hougaard, Ernst Joubert, Justin Melck, Ethienne Reynecke and Wicus van Heerden (9). Leeds Carnegie have Marco Wentzel, Hendré Fourie and Scott Mathie (3).

France has become a home away from home for many local players. Albi have registered Chrisjan van der Westhuyzen (1), Bayonne have Jacques Deen, Sam Gerber and Rob Linde (3) and Bourgoin have Coenie Basson, Rudi Coetzee and Wessel Jooste (3). Castres is home to props Tjoepie Coetzee, Kees Lensing and Danie Saayman as well as another EP local, Darron Nel (4), while Montpellier have Dricus Hancke, Jacques Schutte, Pietman van Niekerk and Eugene van Staden (4). Racing Metro have Frans Steyn, Bossie Clarke, Jacques Cronjé, Greg Goosen and Francois van der Merwe (5) and Toulon have Conrad Barnard, Dewald Senekal, Ross Skeate and Joe van Niekerk (4).

Brett Wilkinson is the lone Irish player from Connacht, and three Rovigo players playing in Italy, Stefan Basson, Braam Immelman and Schalk van der Merwe.

This brings the tally to 41. Already a Super squad on its own.

The Heineken Cup will see the following locals play. In England Michael Claassens and Pieter Dixon are registered for Bath (2), Danie Coetzee and Faan Rautenbach will prop it up for London Irish (2), Regardt Dreyer, Juandré Kruger, Brett Sharman and Brian Mujati (if not suspended for a long time) play for Northampton Saints (4).

In France we will see Marius Joubert, Brett Russell and Willie Wepener in Clermont colors (3), Eduard Coetzee and Trevor Hall in the Biarritz squad (2), Pat Barnard, Anthonie Claassen, Scott Spedding, Retief Uys, Gerhard Vosloo and Scott Zimmerman (6) playing for Brive, Gerrie Britz, Philip Burger and Steve Meyer for Perpignan (3), Rayno Gerber and Falie Oelschig for Stade Francais (2) and Daan Human and Shaun Sowerby in Toulouse (2) colours.

Jean de Villiers is the most famous local in Munster colours, while CJ van der Linde props for defending champions Leinster and BJ Botha for Ulster, with Robbie Diack also in that squad.
Tobie Botes, Marius Goosen, Marco Neethling, Corniel van Zyl and Bian Vermaak (5) will play for Benneton Treviso to bring the total number of players to 32 - almost another squad!

There are a couple of Eastern Cape boys well worth their selection, but based on the above, here is my possible starting XV to play for the Kings, with preference to players with a regional connection.

Brent Russell, Rudi Coetzee, Sam Gerber, Brad Barritt, Philip Burger, Conrad Barnard, Neil de Kock, Darron Nel, Dewald Senekal, Gerhard Vosloo, Dricus Hancke, Rob Linde, Rayno Gerber, Willie Wepener, Danie Saayman.

Read JJ in Rapport every Sunday

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