So by now those of you who follow your rugby fervently will no doubt have heard that SARU has officially granted the Southern Kings from the Eastern Cape a free ticket into Super Rugby to start next year 2013. There was always going to be a loser on this subject and on this occasion the Lions from Johannesburg did not deliver the goods in the 2012 tournament.
It’s a strange one from the Coca Cola Park team as they had a superb 2011 Currie Cup campaign that just didn’t seem to convert itself into the next level. Either way, whether it was going to be the Cheetahs or the Lions this is one debacle that SARU will want to wish away on any occasion they get.
Let’s go back and dissect the whole situation from scratch as it has been a few years in the making.
The Southern Kings were originally formulated to bid for the vacancy in the revamped Super 15. They went up against the Melbourne Rebels at the time. In what could be termed a 9/11 moment, they were outvoted by SANZAR on the 11 November 2009. SANZAR pretty much said that the Kings had the better bid package but then tried to justify their decision by saying it “awarded the franchise to Melbourne because it offered better commercial prospects than the Kings”. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for the promotion of the beautiful game around the world, but seriously in Melbourne. The state home of Aussie Rules. Give me a break. A country that only managed to get a team in the knockouts of this year’s Super XV due to default.
Anyway, moving closer to modern day and due to the above, SARU had overpromised and undelivered. A trait normally common with the SA government. Now we had the Kings baying for blood and struggle stalwart Cheeky Watson (father of Luke) throwing down the gauntlet and threatening to take his case to the highest court because he had been “promised”. He had a point though. Although it wasn’t the right way to do it, SARU had a legal obligation to stump up.
It started getting a bit more heated from January this year when SARU tried everything under the sun to convince SANZAR to include a 16th team. They said no. Wait until 2015/16. Back to square one. Approach the Lions and Cheetahs to merge and become the Cats again. They said no. To be honest the Lions didn’t have a leg to stand on being the kakkest performers from the Republic. The Cheetahs were having none of it although they would have been breathing a massive sigh of relief at winning a few games this year.
So now we get to the events of last week. SARU met, had their meeting and decided that the Kings would replace the Lions. Whoops of delight from the Eastern Cape and strangely, not much from Johannesburg but a murmur. I have a feeling that a massive payout will be made to the Lions to keep them going through to 2014. They have 26 players that are contracted through to October 2013. The only one clever enough to include in his contract that he could elect to play at a different franchise if the Lions were not participating in Super Rugby was Elton Jantjies. That still leaves players like Pat Cilliers, Jaco Taute, CJ vd Linde, and Josh Strauss to name but a few in limbo.
Another interesting point to note is that Cheeky Watson is still not happy with the cards he has been dealt. Part of SARU’s decision was that the Kings would have access to Super Rugby only guaranteed for one year. He wants three years. It baffles me that he thinks he can just dictate the rules. It also suggests that he doesn’t have much confidence in his franchise if he thinks they may finish bottom at the end of the 2013 season. Either way there will most likely be a promotion/ relegation game after next year’s tournament.
How will the Kings do you ask?? Well everyone outside of the Eastern Cape has not given them a snowball’s chance in hell and feel it will be easy points for the local teams. I don’t know. It’s hard to tell without seeing their full signings and squad for next year. A lot can change in 5 months and it will be interesting to follow this sideshow right up to February 2013.
Follow me fortnightly on the Pharside…
This weekend’s predictions:
NZ over AUS by 11
SA over Argentina by 17
Currie Cup (SA)
Cheetahs over Griquas by by 11
WP over Lions by 9
Sharks over Bulls by 7
Top 14 (FRA)
Perpignan over Bordeaux by 8
Toulon over Racing Metro by 6
Clermont Auvergne over Montpellier by 12
Toulouse over Mont-de Marsan by 16
Castre over Grenoble by 6
Stade Francais over Bayonne by 9
Biarritz over Agen by 18
ITM Cup (NZ)
Auckland over Hawkes Bay by 9
Wellington over Manawatu by 14
Canterbury over Tasman by 12
Bay of Plenty over Taranaki by 13
Otago over Northland by 6
Waikato over North Harbour by 16
Counties Manukau over Southland by 9
RaboDirect PRO12 (WAL/IRE/ITA)
Ospreys over Treviso by 14
Cardiff Blues over Connacht by 6
Munster over Edinburgh by 15
Newport Dragons over Zebre by 12
Leinster over Llanelli Scarlets by 12
Ulster over Glasgow by 7