Kings are the weakest link

Keba Mothoagae

The biggest story of the 2017 Super Rugby season is very much boardroom related. An announcement about the future of the competition is expected shortly and a reduction in the number of teams from Australia and South Africa is the hot topic.

I’d like to see at least two teams giving way, and maybe even a third one at a push, but for South Africa  there are political, financial and technical factors that need looking at.

From a technical point of view, at least one Australian team has to go. In 17 combined campaigns, the Force and Rebels have a total of two winning seasons and no playoff appearances. That is simply unacceptable.

Since 2006, the Reds and Waratahs have each won a title, while the Brumbies have made a playoff nuisance of themselves on top of the two gongs they got in 2001 and 2004.

Amid this success, the posers from Perth and Melbourne have, at worst, been a sideshow affecting the quality of the Aussie conference, while at best providing a shock result here and there.

They’d be better suited merging to form a stronger outfit, or even better, be scrapped and see the distribution of talent among the founding Aussie sides.

And the Waratahs, Brumbies and Reds could use at least four talented players each from the Rebels and Force to entertain the thought of winning Super Rugby again.

Politically, South Africa is in a fix. The Southern Kings are currently a glorified Currie Cup outfit only good for boosting opposing teams’ bonus point and points differential brackets.

However, that is all down to terrible administration in spite of being located in the Eastern Cape, one of the richest talent factories on earth. They are also a potentially brilliant tool for transformation, with the province boasting the highest participation of non-white players in the land.

These are the only justifiable reasons for them surviving the chop, which could unfairly befall everyone’s second favourite team, the Cheetahs.

Counting against the Kings is an unconvincing financial position, and with sponsors hardly throwing money at them and scandal-ridden EP Rugby having recently come out of administration, their status as a sideshow cannot be tolerated any longer.

Truthfully, the Kings would serve the nation better if the union released players for Super Rugby elsewhere, and they then returned to Port Elizabeth for the Currie Cup, like it was before.

Until such time as they are stable, the Kings need a timeout from the competition.

The Cheetahs add value as a highly entertaining team to the Super Rugby product and I don’t see why they should go.

Their main challenge is hanging onto players that are poached by the other top unions, and for them to remain competitive in the face of this is admirable.

It goes without saying that any decision to trim the competition will be very unpopular in the affected regions, but the numbers do not lie. The eyes on televisions and bums on stadium seats are dropping unabated.

Kings… you are the weakest link. Goodbye!

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- Keba Mothoagae

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  • Paul Roux

    I agree the kings must take a walk.

  • Mthunzi

    It is sad truth but Kings must go and if it comes to a second team then again Cheetah’s may be second.

  • Tony Tony

    KEBA – you miss the issues by a country mile and don’t address why there is this sabre rattling to cut teams from 18 to 15.

    A little known fact is that the S18 tournament structure was put together by a Canadian firm who cocked this up royally and are responsible for this 2 year disaster.

    Don’t try and pick on the Kings and suggest removing them is a panacea and cure for SANZAAR.
    It is not a well thought out proposal or suggestion and perpetuates the financial malaise for all 18 teams and SANZAAR.

    It isn’t and you have to analyze the fundamentals and think this through to 2020 and beyond, not blurt out an irrational statement.

    The problems SANZAAR are facing:

    – they have a broadcast agreement for S18 to 2020
    – dwindling spectators and TV audiences in all 5 countries and 18 Teams on account of an ill conceived fixture format
    – potential legal claims from team owners, players and sponsors that will tie SANZAAR up for years
    – no imagination or initiative in rapidly restructuring the S18 format
    – the potential to lose massive TV rights fees on account of less inventory (games) which means less money to the 15 franchises
    – the need to accommodate and fund a new tournament for the teams that exit the S18 and perhaps and/or compensate them for their sponsor and player damages claims

    So the obvious answer to boost attendances and TV viewership is a blend of local derbies and recognition of the Best teams having a go at each other.

    This is what spectators viewers and broadcasters and S18 franchises want.

    – this is to have a 3 conference format of 6 teams each
    – in South Africa’s instance this sets the stage for local derbies and the need to focus on that
    – the top 2 teams in each of the 3 conferences advance into a 6 team tournament format of a double round robin
    – the lower placed 12 teams play a single round robin
    – no SANZAAR member loses money and no franchise receives less money
    – the tournament can then in 2020 announce a new format for 2021-2024 which could expand into a 2 Tiered 10 Team system with promotion and relegation of the last placed 2 teams with the first placed 2 teams.
    – both Tiers then offer strength vs strength as well as the prospect of bringing in two wild card franchises from Europe to spice up the tournament.

    As for EP Rugby it is being stripped of its players by other franchises and that plundering and pillaging of players has to stop.

    Perhaps a new EP Rugby administration with balls as big as church bells is just what is needed to fill stadiums.

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