Saru to blame for Super stuff up

MARK KEOHANE, in his weekly Business Day column, says Saru should be held to account for the Kings fiasco.

Where is the accountability in the South African Rugby Union for the fiasco that is the 2013 Super Rugby situation? Where is the leadership?

There never has been accountability and there never will be, whether the subject matter is transformation, the retention of coaching intellectual capital or Super Rugby participation.

Saru CEO Jurie Roux told the media that no stone would be left unturned as the national organisation, along with the regional franchises, sought a solution in which no franchise would be prejudiced.

The statement was as embarrassing as the situation the clever blokes within South African rugby have fashioned. If no stone had been left unturned then the situation would not be as it is — with none of the five existing regions in agreement on the apparent agreement that one team would be relegated to accommodate the Southern Kings next year.

The Kings were guaranteed Super Rugby because of promises made to the government, which in turn would financially stand guarantee in the 2011, 2015 and 2019 Rugby World Cup hosting tenders. The clever guys were bullish about telling the Kings they were in because they were convinced it wouldn’t be an issue to get a tournament expansion that accommodates six South African regions.

When the 14 provincial presidents so unanimously endorsed the Kings’ inclusion they did it believing five would become six and not that six would have to fit into five.

It sums up SA’s rugby administration.

Now the fight has been turned into the Kings versus the Lions because the latter are the worst performing of the South African sides — and have been for the past five years. Provincial bias has come to the fore, especially on social media networks. Racism and pure hatred have reared their head, and the Kings and Lions are the target when those who govern and administer the game in SA should be first in the queue.

In an ideal world this situation would never have been allowed to unfold. In an ideal world professionalism would come with accountability.

Those who put South African rugby in such an embarrassing situation should resign, but that will never happen. They will simply be at the next meeting making more unanimous decisions, like the one that reduced the Currie Cup to six teams before another decision a few months later changed it back to eight teams.

And so they stumble on, from one embarrassing moment to another; the very same guys who convinced themselves that SA’s 2011 World Cup campaign was a success.

It should disgust every supporter of South African rugby, but it won’t because the hapless supporter is powerless to influence change. If only Saru was listed and stakeholders actually could make a difference. If only.

Click here to read Keo’s latest SA Rugby magazine column

The chaos in the administration, fortunately, has not been translated to the general competition performance and SA will be guaranteed at least two teams (and possibly even three) in the top-six play-offs in July.

The more immediate focus is the pending three-Test series against England and the selection of Bok coach Heyneke Meyer’s first squad. The world-class players (read Bismarck du Plessis) know there is a Test series around the corner and the rise in standards has been substantial.

The selection area that looks most vulnerable is among the loose forwards — and that is the one area where no one would have figured that there would be any doubt. A month ago Meyer’s headache was who to leave out. Now it is where to find the right balance of experience, youth, power, strength and height.

Schalk Burger, Juan Smith, Duane Vermeulen and Jacques Potgieter are injured. Danie Rossouw is unavailable. Willem Alberts can’t make the Sharks Super Rugby squad and there is more mediocrity than magic among the loose-forward options.

Young Sharks loosie Marcel Coetzee is the exception and he will play many Tests, but his initial role will be from the bench. Heinrich Brüssow should start as the fetcher although his penalty transgressions this season match his turnovers, and Pierre Spies and Ryan Kankowski provide options at No 7 and No 8.

I’d still not discount the claims of France-based pair Joe van Niekerk and Jacques Cronje because of the experience they bring in the enforced absence of Burger and Smith. If the aim is to pick the best team to beat England then look all over the world to fill this team.

SA has so many world-class players here, in Europe and in Japan that if there were no prejudice about where a player was based, there would also be plenty more victories.

I’m confident who ever Meyer picks will be good enough to beat England. We have the players and in Meyer we certainly have a coach with the necessary rugby acumen.

If only it was as easy to say that about the game’s administration. If only.