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Wed Apr 23 12:28:42 SAST 2014

Saru's self-inflicted King-size headache

Dan Retief | 27 May, 2012 08:210 Comments

THERE'S a word for the South African Rugby Union's handling of their Southern Kings predicament - disingenuous.

It means lacking in frankness, candour or sincerity; also being false, duplicitous or insincere or, from another source, typically pretending that one knows or admits less about something than one acknowledges.

Saru's claim to parliament's portfolio committee on sport that the Kings are being brought into the Super Rugby competition "to boost transformation" reeks of hypocrisy.

What a convenient excuse by Saru president and Oregan Hoskins and CEO Jurie Roux to try to deflect governmental censure by offering an explanation for a situation they have fudged by employing the transformation panacea.

If Saru were honest about developing players in the Border/EP/SWD triangle where rugby is often the game of first choice for black youngsters, something would have been done about it long ago.

Where are the academies? Where are the coaches? What has the money (exorbitant sums, it is said) Saru have spent in the region actually bought?

"We can't wave a magic wand to transform rugby, but we can boost transformation in rugby by having a franchise in the Eastern Cape," Hoskins was quoted as saying. "Black rugby players traditionally come from the Eastern Cape. It's been a huge step because we believe a [Super Rugby] franchise in the Eastern Cape will be a massive boost to black players in the region," he claimed.

What a statement to make in 2012! The problem of including the Eastern Cape in Super Rugby has been around since January 2005 when SA Rugby invited bids for the inclusion of a fifth SA side in the then Super 14.

The bid was won by the Cheetahs but at the time it was agreed that SA Rugby would support the Eastern Cape, assist with development and that a team representing the area would be included in the Super 14 for the 2007 and 2008 seasons with the team finishing bottom of the log in 2006 automatically being replaced.

This decision led to the formation of the Southern Spears, led by Tony McKeever and with Peter de Villiers as their coach, but the agreement was subsequently reneged on.

Even though the Southern Spears were favoured by a Cape High Court ruling by Judge Dennis Davis that the agreement was binding, SA Rugby managed to avoid implementing their promotion through other machinations, including the alleged purchase of the shares of the three member unions who, it must be said, were not in ruddy financial health.

SA Rugby managed to disband the Spears, but with an Eastern Cape man in Makhenkesi Arnold Stofile as the minister of sport and Butana Komphela as portfolio committee head, the nettle of what to do with the "terrible trio" would not go away.

Cheeky Watson became president of EP rugby, the drive to play Super Rugby was revived and this led to the formation of the Southern Kings.

Hoskins and his deputy, Mark Alexander, are among those who have taken "personal responsibility" for sorting out the mess but without any real dynamism - or success.

Saru have no other side-step in their arsenal. On January 27, a special general meeting voted unanimously to include the Kings in next year's Super 15, and given the recent undertakings to the portfolio committee, it is difficult to see how that can be reversed.

The question of just how it should be done remains. Those disadvantaged will object so vociferously that it may even threaten SA's participation in the tournament but Hoskins and his executive have no choice. Time for some leadership, gentlemen.

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Saru's self-inflicted King-size headache

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