RICHARD FERGUSON writes that the Kings deserve to be in Super Rugby and offer more than the Lions.
The Kings have taken to Super Rugby like fish do to water, and have proven in ten short weeks that not only do they have the talent to win a few games, but that they fully deserve to be in the premier Southern Hemisphere rugby competition.
Let me start by saying that I have been vocal about the Kings inclusion in the past, based on the principle that they would lose every match as a result of uncertainty and the timing of certain important decision regarding their squad. I was wrong, simple as that.
The Kings shocked all and sundry by winning their first game against the Force, and even though many reacted by saying it would be a one and only positive for them for the season, that has not exactly happened. The expected beatings never came, from holding the defending Champion Chiefs team until late in the game, to going to play the Crusaders in Christchurch and keeping the deficit to only 35 points, in the process scoring twice. Not exactly the 100 – love battering that most expected.
Then it all turned around for them as they got a deserved draw against the Brumbies, the exact same Brumbies team that handed a beating to the Sharks and then following that up with a win over the Rebels. I am certain that the Kings will continue in their current form and spring a few more surprises as the season carries on.
The unfortunate thing is that it all may be in vain, as they will have to prove their worth in a promotion/relegation match against the Lions immediately after the conclusion of the Super Rugby league stage. Well, technically, we have to wait until the last week of Super Rugby to determine the lowest finishing South African team, but no there is very little chance that any other team will finish below them. They will take heart from the fact that they are almost assured of not finishing in fifteenth place on the overall log.
The question now is whether we want to see the Lions replace the Kings in Super Rugby 2014. Looking at the performance of the Lions in Super Rugby over the last five years, they have finished dead last in three of those years, and in only one year were they not the lowest South African team. In those five years, they struggled to three wins on tour whereas the Kings have already managed a win and a draw on foreign soil.
I feel for Lions supporters, their union is in trouble. Their team has not done anything worth mentioning in Super Rugby since they made the semi-finals in 2001. The management of the union is not doing any better with them struggling with player retention and constantly being in some financial trouble. They have had countless issues with sponsors and coaches, one has to wonder if it is all worth it.
They have had the year off Super Rugby to get their act together, but have failed at that as well, rather spectacularly. Their tour of the USA has been cancelled, at the very last moment, their reasoning being that the opposition does not warrant the money spent. I could have told them that four months ago, when they announced it.
The Kings came to the party in terms of filling up a stadium to capacity, whereas the Lions struggle to get 15 000 at a game, so does it not make sense, if there are only going to be five South African teams in Super Rugby, that we back the Kings. Backing the Kings now will give them the best opportunity to do even better next year, further surpassing all expectation.
Another year of preparation and being able to sign players knowing full well that their place in Super Rugby is not under scrutiny will do them the world of good. Who knows, we might actually have five fully competitive teams in Super Rugby, and that is for the greater good of South African rugby.