With the debate still raging on in lesser educated circles about whether the Southern Kings should be allowed more than two (4,6 or 10) foreign players or not, on how ‘lily white’ the team is or how EP have ‘failed’ at development, the Super Rugby team ‘selection’ needs to be put into perspective.
Player ‘selection’ is really only about which franchise has the deepest pockets and the most money to attract employees (we used to call them ‘players’ in the old days).
There is an accepted finite pool of recognised high level potential Super Rugby employees. These potential employees all recognise that their careers are finite and carefully make the choice of which team to work for based on the greatest reward offered. Not one of these high level employees will work for a team based on sentiment or loyalty. A rugby player has a finite working life and needs to be as visible as possible whilst making as much money as possible in the shortest time.
If you were a rugby player would you sign to play/work for a franchise such as the Southern Kings that has only been granted one definite year of existence?
The potential Super Rugby employee also has to factor in the fact that the Southern Kings franchise is openly hated and criticised by a high proportion of the rest of South Africa which could have major negative effect on employability and exposure going forward.
To sum it up the Southern Kings already have a stacked deck to play against.
The fact of the matter is that haters will always find a reason to hate. Many of those that are criticising the Southern Kings for not fielding a ‘development’ team are the very same ones that cast condescending comments on existing players of colour.
I interpret what the haters mean when they say ‘development’ as follows: “Black at all costs and preferably with incompetent black players to prove that blacks can’t play rugby and belong in a soccer team so that we can get back to playing a lily white game!”
The pool of Super Rugby players/employees of colour is even smaller than the pool of lily white players.
Two recent major young Super Rugby level talents have sprung from marginalised and persecuted Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape though; Siya Kolisi and Seargal Petersen. Granted EP Rugby cocked up on failing to sign Kolisi but atoned for their sins by snapping Petersen up.
My challenge is simple: Show me another marginalised and persecuted region that has produced two such players of colour in recent history? Even better: Show me any established Super Rugby franchise that has managed to produce two such players of colour in recent history?
Eastern Province and Border (e.g. Southern Kings hooker Andise Maku) have the ability and grass roots spread to produce outstanding players of colour. It is a source of pride for me that both Petersen and Kolisi are also products of my alma mater, Grey High School, which recognised their talent and provided scholastic bursaries for them to further their careers.
2,4, 6 or 10 Foreign Players:
I understand the Super Rugby situation as follows: SANZAR (South Africa New Zealand Australia Rugby) is the controlling body of Super Rugby and they make the rules governing the competition. Their failure is in being utterly unable to make any meaningful decisions.
In November 2009 the Melbourne Rebels were granted the 15th Super Rugby license and were given dispensation to sign up to 10 foreign players before beginning their inaugural Super Rugby campaign in 2011.
For those with selective memories the Rebels were only granted the license after SANZAR failed to make a choice between the Rebels and the Southern Kings and the granting of the license was allowed to be decided in the courts:
The Victorian capital was chosen by independent arbitrators after the board of SANZAR (South Africa New Zealand Australia Rugby) failed to reach an agreement in October 2009 between it and a competing bid from South Africa’s Southern Kings.
Former World Cup-winning captain David Kirk and retired New Zealand High Court judge Barry Paterson conducted the review of each bid before deciding on Melbourne.
The existing Super 14 competition will be reorganised along a conference system with five teams now in each of the three countries.
SANZAR said a 15th Super rugby team in South Africa would have reduced broadcasting revenue by between $US15 million and $20 million over the term of a contract.
“The Melbourne application provided considerably greater commercial benefit… than the Southern Kings application,” SANZAR said in a statement.
What more proof does one need that rugby has indeed become a business that is kept alive in order to feed greedy administrators who have opened themselves up to manipulation by other greedy administrators/franchise owners?
Have you ever stopped to wonder just how much our administrators are paid – not only by SARU but also by SANZAR and the IRB (some by all three bodies)? I am sure that it is a huge chunk of change and, according to some estimates, a plum IRB position is worth R1.4 million a year! Lump that with national and intercontinental ‘stipends’ and we open our administrators up to a whole lot of ‘undue influence opportunities‘ that local franchises are aware of and can use to influence voting on crucial decisions, such as giving a franchise such as the Southern Kings an opportunity to utilise 6 foreign players, without even openly bribing our administrators.
SANZAR have shown that they have no real teeth and one wonders what would happen if a they advised a new franchise that they could employ 6 foreign players only for the franchise’s national governing body to say that only two foreign players could be employed? No matter the outcome – Rugby will be the loser.
This situation has been brought about by administrators that turned rugby in a professional business. Along the way they forgot their amateur roots which were always based on club, provincial and national rivalries.
Our rugby administrators (SARU/SANZAR) need to make a tough decision and only allow players to play for Super Rugby franchise regions that developed and honed their talent over a set number of years. Such a decision will instantly turn the Southern Kings into the most powerful franchise in South Africa.