Sanction Saru’s untouchables

RYAN VREDE foresees no accountability from the South African Rugby Union for the multi-million rand Kings mess.

The Weekend Argus reported on Sunday that Saru will pay the Kings R40 million to stand down from their promised Super Rugby inclusion for three years. This would end a saga that has dragged on for longer than anyone would care to remember. It would further tarnish the governing body’s reputation as one continually plagued and undermined by politics and poor business acumen.

Saru never misses an opportunity to trumpet its professionalism, but has consistently failed on the biggest issues. It remains utterly perplexing that Saru would initially promise the Kings’ inclusion in the 2013 tournament, basing its solution on how a sixth South African franchise would be accommodated in a conference system dependent on an even number of teams, and their ability to bully Sanzar into a favourable format alteration.

Credit must go to Sanzar for not rolling over, insisting from the start that no such change would happen until 2015. This left Saru in a quandary. It initially issued a veiled threat of a boycott if its demands weren’t met. That simply served to deepen Sanzar’s resolve on this issue.

A merger between the Lions and Cheetahs was floated but dismissed almost immediately by the latter. Saru then sought to find alternate solutions, which its best efforts failed to achieve. That outcome was predictable, despite Saru’s insistence throughout the process that it had not painted itself into a corner.

If we accept the truism that rugby has become big business, then it stands to reason that a R40 million payout that stems from a diabolical business decision must carry consequences for the decision-makers, in the same way it would in the corporate world, right? Wrong. The presidents who voted unanimously for the Kings’ inclusion will face no repercussions for this ill-considered decision. They are autocrats and thus not answerable for their errors, even ones of this magnitude.

Saru president Regan Hoskins and CEO Jurie Roux have displayed poor leadership on this issue. There is already a widespread belief that Hoskins lacks the aptitude for his role. But Roux in particular has failed in his biggest challenge to date. In recent months Roux has not missed an opportunity to question the media’s capacity to do their jobs. How ironic it is that he would fall so far short of the base expectation for a leader of his standing. These are the types of decisions that define elite business leaders. Roux will have to work hard to restore credibility to where his lack of decisive leadership has eroded.

It infuriates that Hoskins, Roux and co will not face any sanction for their roles in this shamble. This is not right. It is incumbent upon the sports ministry to launch an independent review of the entire process and punish those responsible for this mess. Failure to do so would amount to failing in their mandate to serve the best interests of the game’s main stakeholders, the rugby public.

The plight of our challengers in their respective Super Rugby matches this coming weekend should be the focus this week. Instead our game’s governing body’s incompetence will steal the show once more.

Pathetic.

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