I see it daily, on various media and social media sites when talk starts surrounding the Kings. “They will be the laughing stock of the South African Conference. Of SupeRugby!” While they will do it tough, battling through their first and maybe last season; becoming the “laughing stock” is less objective, more evocative, providing an insightful glimpse into the rugby-loving South African psyche.
In these on-line discussions, there will also be a mention or twenty about those Watsons. Not to forget the mocking refrains about how this move was talked about, based upon, motivated by, a desire for local transformation and what this would do for Eastern Cape rugby. Now look at the names now. What a joke! Most recently we have witnessed the wearing of black. Nearly All Black. Go on; pour me another!
While I am confident there has been some planning, it is not like you go, fishing, and happen to catch a professional rugby side, infrastructure and culture.
Every time I see these various thoughts, I do wonder at the sporting sanity of those typing. These are not the reflections of sporting individuals living in the real rugby world. These are not the objective protestations of the righteously indignant. These represent the biased and ingrained views of those who can not view this Kings situation with any shadow of objectivity because they are blinded by their own prejudice. Then, there is also the Lions, which has also not helped!
Let us proceed.
1. No Homegrown talent. Really? You just believed there was a cadre of talented SupeRugby-ready players that had not been identified by other South African SupeRugby sides in the Eastern Cape over the previous seasons, and strangely, having some prophetic and altruistic notions, these individuals decided to put the progress of their rugby careers on-hold, and stay in an area that offered little help and hope once you left school?! I know; that was a long sentence.
How has this theory proven to-date? All those Eastern Cape players who stayed after making it all the way?!
This frustration, bordering on a misplaced sense of righteous anger, is then translated into a mockery that perpetuates the racial and national make-up of their roster in 2013. What exactly were you expecting? When the Sharks permanently borrow from the Vrystaat; this is what, exactly? Yet, you want the bar “raised” for a side that actually needs it lowered, which would be more commensurate with a “fairer” reality. Take an Australian example. In the Rebels first SupeRugby season, they were allowed to sign 10 players from outside Australia. Yes, this was aimed at saving the other Australian franchises, but it also indicates the expected needs. Why do you think they made this concession? Potentially, because there was an understanding of resources, coupled with a sense that professional rugby does not transition overnight. It takes time. Just in case you point to the Eastern Cape’s greater rugby tradition, again, if you wanted to make it rugby-wise in South Africa, where did you go? Just learn from history. How many have stayed in the Cape post-1995 while their professional career’s have taken off?
2. The party also having a shocker here is SARU who offered the Kings a blank cheque. Wow. Somebody sign it. This was until they proceeded to empty the account of all funds, even sense. The Kings needed a commitment of 3-5 years, minimum, to build a team, in SupeRugby. The Crusaders had that shocker in 1996 – bottom. Were better in 1997. Won it in 1998. This was an organisation already light years in front on the talent-recruiting front than this side in SA, helpfully part of the New Zealand system. There is good reason the Kings have sought out their Crusaders coaches. Give the Kings a, 5-10, commitment to build an infrastructure and system that can channel their local resources, which can also communicate to the youth of the area and the rising individuals in other areas that this is a legitimate place to play your future.
Success is actually what this organisation needs, when most of you are just hankering; some would say, gagging, for doom and gloom.
Want some present examples in a NZ system that relate to player movements? Take a look at the Highlanders line-up. How many reside in the Highlanders region? Not that many. Or, take the Chiefs, see how many provincial regions of NZ were pooled for their resources in 2012? Guess what? They won! South African rugby is becoming an expert at dropping the baby, bouncing it into the bathwater, and then airing it all out the window, while stuffing it down the drain. You’re missing the point, SA. Your form of passionate provincialism steals a national vision of the game that makes you feel strong for your local tribe, but can make you stupid for your country. It is about getting your best talent all playing in this SupeRugby competition. If it was decided it wouldn’t be through the Lions; it should be with the Kings. Is it little wonder that SupeRugby is a Tournament that the Currie Cup has effectively DHL’d.
Maybe get Xerox for that Tournament’s sponsor.
3. The Watsons! How long are many of you going to hold onto that bitter root/route with this family? For starters, it only eats away at your true humanity and the flourishing that you all should desperately desire. As far as I have witnessed, Luke Watson, has taken responsibility for a good deal of his sins, perceived or otherwise. If a new South Africa can not put behind animosity that has its locus in history connected with the rugby field, how the gehenna will it deal with larger issues that really matter in society?
Anyway, even granting there are issues, this involvement of the Kings in SupeRugby is about more than just two individuals, and this should be seen in the fact that this team’s success must outlive any legacy they leave. The problem is that too many people manipulate the facts and create a straw-man scenario with the Watsons as the effective conduit for people to denigrate and hate-on the Kings. You’ve got one. You get the other. All you do is out yourself as one obsessed with these two personalities.
When the Kings line-up for their first SupeRugby fixture, they should not have to beg for SARU to accept their desire to play 5 overseas players. They should have been given this avenue right at the start, as such a decision is only the sober judgment of those who should know better. The Force enter week one of SupeRugby 2013 with 6 Kiwi-born players in their starting 15. There is also, Winston Stanley, from the famous NZ sporting family. That makes 7. If Jayden Hayward was in the vicinity, this would likely rise to 8. In 15. This is a side that has been in SupeRugby for how long? Exactly.
South Africans need to get off their indignant self-righteous hobby horses – let me finish while I occupy mine – and understand that this has been an old nag for far too long. SARU has made this mess with the Lions, they have mucked the Kings and their previous editions, and this is where this situation now resides. Of course, I will now be accused of failing to grasp the South African political subtefuge involved in the Kings move. Well; you can’t have it both ways. What exactly would you describe the “carry-on” that has kept the Kings on the sidelines since the Spears? Politics? Oh; just the right call. Silly me!
Instead of mocking the Kings, there should be an excitement about a breath of fresh air, about what this could do for the growth of the game in SA, coupled with a sense of hope for all those youngsters looking for a shot. In reality, there is a mass sense of sporting schadenfreude. People just waiting to vent their spleen full of mockery, bias, and ignorance.
Yes, they will battle in their first season. It’s not like they signed the Lions! What do you think this will actually prove?
These really should not be made to matter
Time to wake up. This is meant to be the new South Africa.
And welcome to SupeRugby 2013. Welcome to the Kings. The South African ones.
What Say You?
Until Next Time
Image: Rugby 365