The Kings and Cheetahs conundrum
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
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.