Saru and Wat­son should hang their heads in shame

CityPress - - Sport - Dan Retief dan.retief@city­ Fol­low me on Twit­ter @retief­dan

One of the beau­ties of pro­cess­ing words on com­put­ers is the au­to­matic records they keep.

Dates, times and views ex­pressed years ago are all there to be called up.

So, from the depths of Mi­crosoft, I called up the sub­ject “Kings rugby” and watched a litany of bad man­age­ment and old warn­ings ap­pear on the screen.

Frankly, the Kings have been a dis­as­ter for the SA Rugby Union (Saru).

And if dis­as­ter is the word for how Saru has gone about it, what does one say about what has gone on in what was meant to be a team com­posed of play­ers from Eastern Province, Border and South Western Districts, but which ended up be­ing dom­i­nated by Eastern Province?

The prob­lem of in­clud­ing the Eastern Cape re­gion in Su­per Rugby has been around since 2005 – when SA Rugby in­vited bids for the in­clu­sion of a fifth South African 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 re­gion fi­nan­cially and that a team rep­re­sent­ing the area would be in­cluded in the Su­per 14 for the 2007 and 2008 sea­sons.

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

Even though the South­ern Spears were favoured in a high court rul­ing by Judge Den­nis Davis that the agree­ment was bind­ing, SA Rugby man­aged to avoid im­ple­ment­ing the club’s pro­mo­tion through other machi­na­tions – in­clud­ing the al­leged pur­chase of the shares of the South­ern Spears’ three mem­ber unions.

SA Rugby man­aged to dis­band the Spears but the net­tle of what to do with the “ter­ri­ble trio” would not go away.

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

Saru pres­i­dent Ore­gan Hoskins and his deputy, Mark Alexan­der, are among those who have taken “per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity” for sort­ing out the mess, but with­out any real dy­namism and, in­evitably, with­out suc­cess.

When Jurie Roux be­came CEO of the union, more plat­i­tudes were bandied about that the area was a nurs­ery for black play­ers.

But in fact, Wat­son did as he pleased and the Kings did not at­tain a stan­dard good enough for Su­per Rugby.

Even­tu­ally, Saru could wrig­gle no more and, in 2013, the “South­ern” Kings were in­cluded in a 15-team Su­per Rugby com­pe­ti­tion at the ex­pense of the Lions.

The men in black and red had an ex­cel­lent coach in New Zealan­der Matt Sex­ton and Wat­son’s son, Luke, was signed at an al­legedly ex­or­bi­tant salary to cap­tain the team, but in spite of show­ing some prom­ise, fin­ished last.

The fol­low­ing year, the Kings were de­feated in a play-off com­pe­ti­tion by the Lions.

The Lions re­turned to Su­per Rugby, the Kings em­barked on a steady de­cline and, in the end, the only out­come was that the ex­er­cise dam­aged both teams.

Still, the re­al­ity that in places such as King Wil­liam’s Town, Gra­ham­stown, New Brighton and Mdantsane, black young­sters play rugby as a first-choice game loomed large and Saru knew that if proper trans­for­ma­tion were to hap­pen, it would be led by the Eastern Cape.

Saru con­tin­ued to be­lieve that the an­swer was Su­per Rugby and this played a key role in the es­tab­lish­ment of the new 18team com­pe­ti­tion in which the Kings have now been in­cluded.

Whether the Kings will again be hope­lessly out of their depth is a moot point.

Wat­son has played Saru for fools. Saru, in turn, has come up with half-baked plans it has never seen through.

As the records show, it has of­ten been said be­fore: Saru and Wat­son have fudged it. They have lied to, be­trayed and dam­aged hope­ful and in­no­cent young men.

They should all hang their heads in shame.

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