I don’t know if anyone in SA Rugby has actually sat back and considered exactly what is going to happen should the Kings play in Super Rugby 2013?
No I am not talking about our SANZAR partners, commentators and fans ridiculing SA Rugby – they had plenty of practice of that by underperforming Saffa teams in the past – I am actually referring a level of hatred from SA fans towards another SA team at a level never before witnessed.
Some might think I am overreacting but do yourself a favour and go and read some letters, sms (sent into newspapers) and comments on blogs and social media whenever the Kings issue is raised – it is a situation that gets very nasty, very quickly on every single platform.
There are various factors in play that has led to this. Some of the more obvious reasons include how this situation was allowed to develop because of political promises SA Rugby made to government (bringing Super Rugby to the Eastern Cape) in exchange for their backing for a World Cup bid (which failed). Then add some more political fuel to this fire in the form of their president (Cheeky Watson), his son, poster boy and captain (Luke Watson) and their equity partner in waiting, Robert Gumede, and it becomes very easy to see why your average South African rugby supporter has absolutely no time for this team.
But even that could have been managed – most South Africans have become so de-sanitized and used to political meddling in everyday affairs and sport that most would have brushed it off as just another cosmetic attempt to score some political points but is sure to fail. It is the other monster that SA Rugby have allowed to grow in playing the Kings off against some of the current existing franchises that has the potential for this to become very ugly, very quickly.
I have written two weeks ago how this (Kings) situation is one that has been brewing since 2005, and after 12 Rounds in Super Rugby in 2012 we are no-where close to finding a solution than what we were then. In January this year SA Rugby announced that all 14 unions voted unanimously for the inclusion of the Kings in Super Rugby in 2013, and as true as that may be, it is important to note that none of the current franchises or teams voted for that to happen at their expense, or exclusion.
This has simply created another stand-off between existing franchises and the Kings as it did in 2005 and 2006 with SA Rugby neither having the ability or will to step in and make a decision. They would seemingly rather just stand back and let the situation play itself out with the hope of a favourable result in the end – and that result currently seems to be the hope that the Lions in addition to their woeful results on the field will also be forced into a position to completely close their doors and call it quits.
Apart from the pressure currently on the Lions team given their poor results (one win from eleven played) it has also come to light last week that SA Rugby is putting administrative pressure on them threatening to relegate them should they not be able to settle a financial dispute between them and their Super Rugby partner unions. It is particularly ironic given how many times SA Rugby has had to bail out other unions in South Africa who were on the brink of disaster including the unions in the Eastern Cape! It is even rumoured in some circles that SA Rugby is footing quite a hefty bill to cover expenses of the Kings in waiting…
Of course I cannot see SA Rugby having it any other way – the fact that this has become a battle in the media between the Kings and Lions has conveniently shifted the spotlight of responsibility from them.
What I believe they do not realize is that this situation has got far greater consequences than what they realize. It is one thing to hide behind politics as a reality in South Africa to support the Kings in Super Rugby, but when you idly stand by and watch another team with over 100 years of history and support being destroyed you are creating a far deeper divide amongst supporters of the game than simple provincialism has ever done.
The Kings are being held up as the ‘team of the people’ by some which is quite ironic, especially when I see ‘the people’ uniting against Kings which will no doubt become a visible, and embarrassing reality for SA Rugby come 2013.