Inadvertently, John Mitchell’s Lions may be offering the Southern Kings some relief during a hectic 20-day period that includes matches against all five South African Super Rugby franchises.
The five-match passage and its demands, starting over the weekend, in East London, against the Cheetahs, has not escaped the attention of the Southern Kings coach Alan Solomons who has decided to field his best side in only three matches, while composite sides made up of the Eagles and Border Bulldogs, their regional partners, will take the field in the remaining two. Solomons feels the region must share the workload.
The Southern Kings side are drawn mainly from the Eastern Province Kings, who finished runners-up to Boland in last year’s Currie Cup First Division competition.
The two matches Solomons has earmarked for the Eagles/Bulldogs combinations are against the Cheetahs and the Lions, and the decision has earned sharp rebuke from Mitchell who said he would rather forgo the match than play against weakened opposition.
“We probably won’t turn up if that is the case,” said Mitchell. “We probably won’t turn up if it is a weakened side, we would probably have an internal hit-out at home.”
The five friendlies against the Kings are all compulsory friendlies arranged by the South African Rugby Union (SARU) and the Lions are obliged to honour it. However, it order to meet this obligation nothing can stop Mitchell from sending a second-string squad along to fulfill the fixture if he stands by his decision to boycott the fixture.
The fixture is set down for Tuesday, 14 February, at Outeniqua Park, in George.
In the run-in to the Cheetahs’ clash against Eagles/Bulldogs, the Cheetahs assistant coach Hawies Fourie said his side felt cheated that they were not running out against the Southern Kings.
“We are being forced to play against these teams and then we end up facing a second-string team,” said Fourie. “It doesn’t make much sense, but there is nothing we can do about it. It takes away a lot of the logic of playing these (friendlies) games.”
The Southern Kings, who were named as Super Rugby contestants in 2013, will play the Bulls (4 February), the Stormers (11 February) and the Sharks (17 February) at their Port Elizabeth headquarters, the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Since South Africa only have five slots in the Super Rugby competition, one of the existing five franchises could be forced to make way for the Kings in 2013.
Mitchell agreed that the five franchises might be under great pressure to retain their status but he felt the situation held no terrors for the Lions. “It is not my problem,” said Mitchell. “To be fair it is not anything I can control, so why worry about it, why lose any sleep over that?
“I will just look after the Lions.” — Herman Gibbs, SportsCentral
- Follow SportsCentral on: http://www.twitter.com/sportscentralZA