Kings’ ex­per­i­ment con­signed to lost op­por­tu­nity dump

CityPress - - Sport - Simnikiwe Xabanisa . sport@city­press.co.za . Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Simx­a­ban­isa

If ever there was a text­book ex­am­ple of the ex­pres­sion “too lit­tle too late”, it has to be the South­ern Kings’ game against West­ern Force last Sun­day.

Look­ing at the 46-41 fi­nal score­line, it was al­most as if the two sides – who knew they would be a step closer to Su­per Rugby ex­tinc­tion the mo­ment San­zar an­nounced its plans to cull three teams from the com­pe­ti­tion af­ter their game – had had a gen­tle­man’s agree­ment to thumb their noses at the pow­ers that be.

Apart from the shoddy de­fence, the match was an ab­so­lute rip­per, with both sides stretch­ing their legs, and fly half Lionel Cronjé fi­nally show­ing off the skills he was known for in his school days.

But it was prac­ti­cally the last kick of a dy­ing horse as the two teams are, along with the Chee­tahs, favourites to be off­loaded from the Su­per Rugby ros­ter. The Force are try­ing to sue their way out of trou­ble, but it is dif­fi­cult to imag­ine any team other than the Kings and the Chee­tahs walk the plank in South Africa.

Sure, SA Rugby has come up with a cri­te­rion for who should be dropped, but one could hardly see the three­time cham­pion Bulls, re­gard­less of their cur­rent form; the Lions, who were fi­nal­ists last year; the in-form Storm­ers; or the Sharks, who are for­mer fi­nal­ists, be­ing rel­e­gated.

The folks in Bloem­fontein might see this as the end of the world, but it isn’t quite as big a death knell as it is for the area rep­re­sented by the Kings, the Eastern Cape. It is a pity that what was once an in­spired idea to give a mas­sive rugby area a mean­ing­ful team will for­ever be con­signed to the sta­tus of a lost op­por­tu­nity.

And what a time for them to be dropped – the Kings have been com­pet­i­tive and would ac­tu­ally have won three games by now had they hung tight against the Sharks and in last week­end’s thriller against the Force.

The brand of rugby they play may, at times, be of the ex­hi­bi­tion va­ri­ety, but it’s bet­ter than the dross the Bulls give us ev­ery week. And who­ever had not heard of Maka­zole Mapimpi, Yaw Penxe, Andisa Nt­sila, Tyler Paul and Justin For­wood now knows their names.

To be sure, all the above play­ers and those who have re­vived their ca­reers in Port El­iz­a­beth will find homes in the re­main­ing four Su­per Rugby sides, as more play­ers de­part for the Euro­pean club merry-go-round, but it was nice to see a team play­ing as many homegrown play­ers as the Kings were.

It is ironic that the pend­ing ax­ings come at a time when the unions are open to pri­vati­sa­tion. It is a far­fetched ex­am­ple, but what if a Robert Gumede was in­ter­ested in a re­turn to rugby and chose the Kings – not only to bankroll, but to run the kind of trans­formed team he could not quite run at the Lions?

But for all of that, the peo­ple of the Eastern Cape have to take as much blame for the Kings’ demise as anyone. When the Kings made their de­but a few years ago, the oc­ca­sion was marked by full sta­di­ums, but when the ad­min­is­tra­tors ran the whole thing into the ground, the Kings faith­ful voted with their feet.

Maybe the les­son for the Eastern Cape is to re­build by pool­ing their re­sources to get a strong enough team to win do­mes­tic com­pe­ti­tions. Ei­ther way, they made a reg­u­lar dog’s break­fast of the Kings ex­per­i­ment.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.