Why Spears are screwed

Players from the South African Super 14 team relegated at the end of this year’s competition will not be available to play for the Southern Spears in 2007.

Officials from two of the franchises – the Stormers and Sharks – won’t let their players anywhere near the Spears franchise, if they are dropped from the competition.

“I can categorically state that that will not happen,” Stormers coach Kobus van der Merwe told Weekend Argus rugby writer Gavin Rich. “We have most of our players under contract for a couple of seasons and we are just not going to let them go and play Super 14 for someone else.

“I know there is a competition agreement in place which states that resources need to be shared around among the teams playing in the Super 14. But that agreement cannot be applied to a team that is not in the Super 14. If the Spears think we are going to give them our players they can keep dreaming.”

WP director of rugby Nick Mallett said the SA team that finished last would have a strong legal case.

“This would be the only professional sports competition that I would have heard of where a team gets dropped from a competition without playing a promotion-relegation game and in favour of a team that wins its place without proving themselves on the field.

“It was also a decision taken arbitrarily, in other words without consultation. The other point to consider is the participation agreement in force in the Sanzar competitions with the sponsors which dictates that you have the strongest teams.”

In Durban, Sharks commercial manager Rudolf Straeuli echoed the sentiments of his Cape counterparts.

“We have most of our guys on contracts for the next three years and I am sure that Nick [Mallett] has done the same at the Stormers. If we dropped out of the Super 14 next year, we would be using all our resources to try and rebuild our strength so that we can regain our place. It would not serve us to let our players go and play somewhere else and it definitely won’t happen.”

The Spears played their first big match against the Cheetahs in PE on Saturday, going down 48-0 after trailing by 33 points at half-time. Pieter de Villiers’s side will also take part in the Currie Cup this year, in order to prepare for their Super 14 debut in 2007.