Sanzar must call SA’s boycott bluff

South Africa’s five existing Super Rugby franchises have threatened to pull out of the competition in 2013 – if six South African teams are not accommodated. MARK KEOHANE says Sanzar needs to call their bluff.

Once again the tail is wagging the dog. Once again Saru’s leadership is being shown as pathetic and without bite.

Oregan Hoskins, the greatest of disappointments as a leader, needs to stand tall and dismiss the threats of the five South African regions. He won’t and the regions will continue to hold the national governing body to ransom, when it should be the other way around.

Rapport newspaper’s sports editor Rudolph Lake wrote of a meeting between the five regions, a meeting sanctioned by Saru, in which they would look at solutions to the Kings’ entry into Super Rugby in 2013. The same regions, whose leadership had unanimously accepted the Kings’ 2013 entry more than two years ago, now feel the need for crisis meetings, in which the only solution is to accommodate six South African teams.

Now comes the threat that all five South African regions will boycott the tournament if they don’t get their own way. Any proper leadership will tell you they have no option but to play in the tournament. If they don’t they are in breach of existing contracts, they lose their primary source of income and they won’t have a region, let alone players.

It makes for a dramatic headline. It sounds spectacular. But there is no way they should even be in a position to make such a demand.

Sanzar’s board members should be laughing at South African administrators who are nothing but an embarrassment with their insular agendas and motives.

On Sunday the City Press sports section was led by an expose of the Golden Lions Rugby Union’s finances. Leading Media24 investigative journalist Jacques Pauw reveals that the Lions liabilities exceeded assets by R46.6 million in 2007, by R49.6 million in 2008, by R63 million in 2009 and by R73 million in 2010. It shows the Lions owing R38 million to Absa for an overdraft facility, R18 million to businessmen Robert Gumede and Ivor Ichikowitz, R14 million to Saru, R5 million to former coach Dick Muir, R6.8 million to the Leopards Rugby Union and R4.5 million to the Pumas Rugby Union.

Who are the Lions to threaten a boycott of the tournament?

Hoskins confirmed to Lake he had received a letter from the five regions with the threat of the boycott and that he was ‘shocked and disappointed’.

Come on, Regan. Show some leadership. You can’t always be shocked and disappointed. Sending the letter to the other nine provinces for input is also not about leadership, but more denial.

If the five ‘traditional’ provinces don’t want to play in Super Rugby, then kick them out and play the next five. Forget about provincial identities and focus on the players. The players will move to where the playing opportunity is.

The five traditional unions, among them the cash-strapped Lions and Cheetahs, have no position of strength when it comes to Super Rugby participation.

The bluff to force an expansion of Super Rugby from 15 to 16 teams and six South African teams should not be tolerated within Sanzar. If SA does not play ball, as per the agreed Sanzar deal and broadcasting arrangement, then Sanzar and the broadcasters should sue Saru and the respective regions/provinces.

What we are seeing here is how administrators in South African rugby have always conducted their business, be it by bullying or bluffing. The threat to withdraw should be a threat from Sanzar to kick them out.

Hoskins, in his time as Saru president, has never made a hard decision to show he is in charge. He has failed transformation and failed at everything that requires a decision and potential confrontation.

Don’t expect this situation to be any different, although I’d like to think those wizards in New Zealand and Australia have slightly more business acumen and a bigger set of balls to tell South Africa’s traditional five to F-off and stop their shenanigans.

Saru should have dealt with who falls out long before they gave the Kings the OK to play in the 2013 tournament. If it is on historical performance then the Lions must go. And if you look at their finances they should have gone ages ago.