Celebrating the Lions (mis)Fortune
February 14, 2013 in Uncategorized
Two trains of thought that have surfaced in the media in recent weeks about this whole Kings-Lions-Super Rugby debacle bug me no end.
1. The Lions are lucky that they have a pressure-free year to rebuild.
Gavin Rich, in his article “Envy the Lions, don’t pity them” writes: “Indeed, the Lions may be the franchise to be envied … the coaches have a rare opportunity to experiment with game-plans and players without the massive pressure that comes with having to win every week” and “The Lions have a rare opportunity to build without the pressure that usually accompanies top level rugby.”
Mark Keohane writes: “The Lions, the victims in 2013, will be long-term victors because in a pressure-free environment of friendly encounters they are building a player base they never had in Super Rugby.”
What this viewpoint conveniently ignores is that the Lions lost a large part of their core of top players, senior and junior, and has been put back to 2010 when they had to rebuild on a base of a few loyal players, youngsters, has-beens, never-wasses and journeymen. This view ignores the fact that the Lions, should they win the Wooden Spoon Knockout games, will go into Super Rugby 2014 with nearly half a squad of rookies, again.
They did that in 2010 after losing more than 15 players the year before and came unstuck.
They did that in 2011 after John Mitchell cleared out the uncommitted, aged and useless and struggled.
They did that in 2012 when they had up to 14 players out injured per game and were kicked out of Super Rugby.
So, please explain to me how it is a good thing for the Lions to have to build again.
The Lions have put SARU’s farcical decision behind them and have taken up the challenge, organised a preparation programme to regain their place in Super Rugby despite the efforts of SARU and South Africa’s rugby administrators efforts to break them and to ruin them and will work their asses off to get back into Super Rugby next year.
Yes, the Lions do have a year free of Super Rugby pressures to “rebuild” but don’t try and convince me that dog shit is chocolate cake.
2. It’s SARU’s fault that the Kings are not competitive.
While I don’t argue that SARU’s ham handed and soft cocked handling of the Kings’ entry into Super hasn’t caused the Kings problems one cannot argue that the Kings are without blame, just as the Lions aren’t blameless to the fate that befell them.
Since 2009 the Kings have been receiving their share of Super Rugby monies and used the funds to strengthen EP Kings at the expense of Border and SWD but haven’t been able to progress to the Currie Cup Premier Division, something both the Pumas and the Leopards were able to do with a lot less money available and no big money marquee players. The Pumas don’t even have a university to retain or attract young players.
The EP Kings continued to feature largely lily white teams, from Craven Week up, despite their main motivation for Super Rugby inclusion being the development local black talent because, face it, EP was never a “great” union, not even in the “good old days”, that deserved to be in Super Rugby because of their rugby achievements.
The Kings didn’t have to force the issue for inclusion this year and could have waited for the renewal of the SANZAR deal in 2016 but instead, with their attitude of entitlement, they bargained on a three year deal and, when that didn’t happen, they bargained on using foreign players.
Fact is, after 4 years in preparation for Super Rugby the Kings still aren’t ready for it and to blame SARU as the sole cause of their unpreparedness is ludicrous. Yes, giving them only one year to “prove” themselves is a farce but they could have been much better prepared than they are now.
Spin it any way you like but the Kings were the co-architects of their current situation.