Kings’ one-year shot contradicts transformation goals

Saru’s annual Super Rugby promotion-relegation plan does little to drive the ultimate goal behind the Southern Kings’ inclusion.

On Wednesday afternoon, Saru announced that the Kings will compete in Super Ruby in 2013, with the Lions dropping out as this season’s last-placed team. A promotion-relegation system was also confirmed, which will see next year’s last-placed South African side compete in a play-off for a 2014 tournament spot against the Jozi franchise. This will only be implemented for one year.

Saru president Oregan Hoskins and CEO Jurie Roux argued that rugby is a professional sport and a professional decision was made.

However, it must be noted that ultimate goal behind the Kings’ inclusion is to assist with transformation in the Eastern Cape region, which is rich in black talent. The likes of Lwazi Mvovo, Siya Kolisi, Akona and Odwa Ndungane, and Bandise Maku all hail from the province.

Hoskins hopes that the Kings’ Super Rugby run will inspire young people of colour to partake in the sport, and go on and represent the franchise.

‘Historically, the top black and coloured rugby players come from the Eastern Cape,’ Hoskins told keo.co.za. ‘We are doing what we can in terms of developing more players of colour. We have academies set up in the Eastern Cape region and in the Boland region to help with transformation.

‘We also hope that with the Kings playing Super Rugby, that these youngsters will want to stay in their home union and play for their local franchise.’

Hoskins added that he was not satisfied with the current transformation circumstances at the Kings. The are only three players of colour who regularly start for the team in the Currie Cup First Division (flank Thabo Mamojele, wing Marcello Sampson and inside centre Tiger Mangweni), while New Zealand coaches have been appointed at the start of domestic campaign.

‘We will have talks with the different unions over the next month as we will go on a roadshow to visit all the provinces,’ said Hoskins. ‘This will include a stop in PE, where we can chat about this. EP president Cheeky Watson has ensured that we will witness some transformation during Super Rugby next year, so we trust he will deal with that.

‘We will also be talking to the different coaches, who actually do the groundwork.’

However, will this ‘quick fix’ actually contribute to the ultimate goal? And have the Kings been given a fair chance to prove themselves at Super Rugby level?

The Kings are only guaranteed one year of Super Rugby. If they finish last next season, they’ll have to compete in the promotion-relegation play-off. And should they be eliminated, their progress will not reach its full potential.

The Kings are likely to finish last next season, considering the trends set by other Super Rugby debutants. The Western Force and Melbourne Rebels were both wooden spoonists in their respective debut campaigns and still feature in the bottom half of the standings. The Cheetahs and Lions continue to struggle as independent franchises since splitting from the Cats initiative in 2006.

Roux acknowledged this scenario and stressed that they are hoping to get other solutions in place.

‘Saru’s input doesn’t stop here. We will continue planning more solutions for post-2013,’ said Roux.

By Gareth Duncan

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