October 15, 2012 in Uncategorized
Let’s forget about the decision to kick out the Lions and replace them with the Kings, that topic has been done to death already. Let’s also forget for a moment that the Kings are struggling to recruit players due to not only the late decision but also due to the fact that they are only guaranteed one year in Super Rugby. Let us also ignore whether the Kings may or may not be competitive in Super Rugby next year, time will tell.
Let’s look at the play-off scenario and the logistics of the play-off games
SARU’s decision to kick out the Lions includes the provision that the Lions will play a home and away knock-out series against the last placed South African team but none of the logistics and processes have been spelled out yet, no details have been revealed as yet, and the effect of these play-off matches hasn’t been discussed.
In recent weeks the Lions have lent some of their contracted players to other franchises (Franco van de Merwe – Sharks, Jaco Taute – Stormers, Elton Jantjies – Stormers, Callie Visagie – Bulls, as well as some other whose agreements haven’t been confirmed yet) on the proviso that they return to the Lions at least two weeks before the knock-out matches. These players loans are being don with the approval of SARU, if not explicitly then at least implicitly. Lions supporters in general are quite happy that we will at least have out players back for play-offs and the Currie Cup.
But how true is that? And when will these matches be played?
Let’s look at the facts:
- Super Rugby 2013 finishes on 3 August 2013 with the play-offs for the finals starting on 19 July 2013.
- The Rugby Championship will probably start on 17 August 2013, leaving a two week (one weekend) break after Super Rugby.
- In terms of IRB regulations clubs, unions and franchises must release players called up for national duty at least five days before any tests they are selected for during the four nations test window which will probably run from 17 August 2013 to 12 October 2013. Their Boks called up must be released on the 12th, a week after Super Rugby.
- The Currie Cup started on 10 August this year but that schedule is in the hands of SARU and can be adjusted. However, the Currie Cup this year finishes on 27 October 2012, two weeks before the first test of the EOYT to Europe.
- A number of Lions players’ contracts expire on 31 October 2013.
- The player transfer window is from August to October which means players looking to negotiate deals have only that period available to them and would rather finalise deals during the early part of that window.
- The Lions players’ loan agreements provide that they have to be released at least two weeks before the knock-out matches.
Given these facts the knockout matches must take place between 19 July 2013 and 31 October 2013 and the only free weekend in that time is on 10 August 2013, a week before the Rugby Championship starts. However the knockouts are supposed to be on a home and away basis,which requires two weekends.
So the break between Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship is just not suitable.
So how about after the Rugby Championship finishes early in October?
At that time the Currie Cup is in full swing and entering its final stages so unless there is a break scheduled into the Currie Cup schedule the knock out matches cannot be fit in during October. And if there is, the Currie Cup finals will clash with the EOYT schedule.
How about after October?
Firstly the EOYT will be in November leaving the play-offs to be played only in December and by that time a number of players’ contracts would have expired and they might have signed with new teams who need them for their Super Rugby preparations.
This leaves the only possible time for these knock-outs to be played is during the Super Rugby play-off and finals phase between 19 July and 3 August and that brings into question the player loan agreements.
How happy will the Stormers be to release Jantjies and Taute just as they enter into the knock-out phases of the Super Rugby competition, or any other franchise releasing players they obtained under similar agreements?
Or will the Lions, for the sake of goodwill, have to go into the wooden spoon play-offs without their top players even though the loan agreements provide for them to be released?
These loan agreements make sense from a Lions perspective as they keep their top players under contract for 2013 but in the end they may just cause more and unnecessary problems for the union as players like Taute, Jantjies and possibly Mapoe will not be available for the 2013 Currie Cup anyway due to Bok commitments anyway.
So my question to SARU is: When do you plan for these matches to be played? Will teams have to play the Super Rugby final stages without their loan players or will the Lions and their opponents be required to play these matches without their Springbok players, if they have any?
This is another case where something sounded good in the SARU boardroom but the consequences weren’t properly investigated or planned for.
I can only see sh!t coming.