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By Heinz Schenk


Kings mirror SA Rugby ills

That’s the problem with South African rugby’s exodus. With so many going overseas, all the local teams are feeding on scraps. So, when good players emerge, they move on.

By the time you read this, the optimism of the new year might’ve taken hold. Maybe the Southern Kings would’ve pulled off a massive coup last night in their first Pro14 game of 2018 – by beating Edinburgh on their home turf.

If that has happened, they would’ve finally snapped a 10-match losing streak. But it probably didn’t because the unfortunate Kings are poster boys for some of the biggest ills plaguing South African rugby.

And by all accounts that means that Deon Davids’ charges won’t be winning anything meaningful anytime soon.

Ironically, much of the franchise’s troubles isn’t their fault at all. In fact, most of the blame should be laid at administrators’ doors. The Eastern Province Rugby Union (EPRU) started the rot with their financial mismanagement and subsequent liquidation in mid2016.

It appeared an absolute cardinal sin but it was merely a precursor to the wider problem of local unions slowly starving to death. Within months, Western Province’s commercial arm was controversially declared insolvent.

Last year, the Blue Bulls had to announce a turnaround strategy, as well as a layoff process due to their cash crunch.

The Lions’ stellar playing brand is the only thing keeping their heads above water and the Cheetahs and Sharks are merely coping. But the Kings didn’t have those unions’ traditional, established structures.

That meant the South African Rugby Union (Saru) was forced to step in as administrator because they had a contractual obligation to Sanzaar to field a sixth franchise in Super Rugby. To an extent, that was understandable. Once the tournament was reduced to 15 teams again, though, one has to question Saru’s political expedience.

Regardless of the difference in competition between Super Rugby and the Pro14, the Kings were thrown into the deep end.

Their new European adventure is no Mickey Mouse affair. There are really good teams and conditions are more difficult than Super Rugby. Why couldn’t Saru rather have tried to push for the Kings’ inclusion in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, the tournament in which the Pumas and Griquas are expected to be included this year?

The competition is specifically aimed at strong British clubs experimenting with their younger and upcoming players.

It would’ve been a far more forgiving and positive environment for the Kings to grow in. Throwing them in at the deep end is doing nothing but shattering confidence. This is why political expedience is such a disease. It appeases politicians and advocates of radical reform but it’s not helping the Kings. Then there’s the issue of depth.

First and foremost, the Kings couldn’t really build because the initial uncertainty of their existence meant players only wanted to sign oneyear contracts. As a consequence, when a few players did shine – think Thembelani Bholi, Tyler Paul, Makazole Mapimpi, Edgar Marutlulle and Ross Geldenhuys – they got snapped up by bigger unions.

That’s the problem with South African rugby’s exodus. With so many going overseas, all the local teams are feeding on scraps. So, when good players emerge, they move on.

Heinz Schenk: Online Sports Editor.

Heinz Schenk: Online Sports Editor.



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