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Lions Super Rugby 2014: Time to bury the hatchet?

October 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

The Lions Challenge is finished and for the Lions the Currie Cup is over. They are taking a welcome break until mid November when the Super Rugby pre-season training starts and coach Johan Ackermann has made it clear – there will be no big signings, no “star” players joining, before the Super Rugby competition starts in February next year.

In 2012 the Lions franchise partners, for reasons of their own, joined the crowd to vote the Lions out of Super Rugby. Well, the Lions are back! But the fact is, considering the players they’ve lost, they are back where they were at the start of 2011 with a squad made up of a few old loyal black manes and bunch of inexperienced young males looking to start with a new pride.

Lions squad for 2014 as it currently stands

It is time for the Lions to bury the hatchet and look at the personnel their franchise partners have who can add value to the squad.

At the Pumas you can start at the top cat, Jimmy Stonehouse. This man has kept the Pumas competitive after they got dumped out of the Currie Cup Premier Division and have managed to retain a squad of good journeyman players. Pulling him into the Lions Super Rugby coaching set up is a no-brainer.

I don’t claim to have followed the Pumas and Leopards players through their competitions but having performed well in the First Division their surely must be a few players who could make the step up.

The Pumas, I believe, have a number of players who could add value to the Lions playing squad, players like Coenie van Wyk, Faf de Klerk, Stefan Watermeyer, Rosco Specman, Corne Steenkamp and Renaldo Bothma. And at the Leopards you have players like BG Uys, Morne Hanekom and Luther Obi.

But now for the biggest hatchet to be buried, the one aimed at Cheeky Watson’s head. Isn’t it time for the Lions and the Kings to look to work together at strengthening both franchises. Let’s face it, SARU has screwed it up royally, maybe it’s time the franchises look to help each other grow rather than cut each others’ throats.

The Kings still have a few of their Super Rugby players left, players with experience who can add value not only to the Lions but also to a future Kings squad. Currently on the books at the Kings are players like Michael Killian, George Whitehead, Ronnie Cooke, Sergeal Petersen, Steven Sykes, Darron Nell and Devin Oosthuizen.

Beggars can’t be choosers, Ackers!

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The Kings – Hijacked!

October 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

After the unions, and specifically the Southern Kings’s “junior” partners, voted against the expansion of the Currie Cup to accommodate the EP Kings I went looking for a post I did in January 2012 on my old blog. To set the scene, the post was written before the 2012 Super Rugby when the Southern Kings were playing warm up matches against the franchises and fielded mediocre sides against the Cheetahs and the Lions.

Well, here it is, unedited, and it might explain, in part, why SWD and Border voted against their “senior” partner.

The Kings, “in the interest of self preservation”, will field a team made up of Border and SWD players when the take on the Cheetahs and the Lions in warm up matches while the team will be made up of EP players for the three games against the Stormers, Bulls and Sharks. Interesting.

While I can understand that playing five games in 20 days against SA’s Super Rugby franchises may be a tough ask of players I cannot help getting the feeling that the Kings is a divided “franchise”. In the past the Kings were nothing more than an EP Kings side under the guise of being a “franchise” with Border and SWD being sidelined in the process. Even the new players signing with the Kings are being signed to EP with the two junior partners losing out.

I would have accepted their “self preservation” and “player rotation” argument if they selected balanced teams made up of players from across the region for these compulsory warm up games against the Super Rugby franchises but at the moment they are showing no interest in integrating Border and SWD into the franchise.

Some might argue that EP, being the strongest union in the region, will always be the senior partner similar to WP/Boland, Bulls/Falcons or Lions/Pumas/Leopards, however EP not only hijacked the franchise, they are also using the franchise’s funding to recruit players for EP rather than for the region. Consider that in recent years, prior to 2011, SWD has consistently outperformed EP in the Currie Cup and it is only since they starting to spend franchise funds to recruit players for EP that they became the “strongest” union in the region in 2011. Even in the Vodacom Cup SWD was on par with EP in recent years.

I question the motives of Cheeky Watson and EPRU, It seems to me that Cheeky Watson and his cohorts have hijacked the Kings franchise for EP and that they have no interest in growing rugby in the Eastern Cape but are looking to develop PE’s rugby base to the detriment of the other unions in the Eastern Cape. Even the franchise name, Kings, was appropriated by EP when they were renamed EP Kings in 2010.

Currie Cup First Division Log Tables:

2011

Boland 10 9 46
EP Kings 10 9 42
Valke 10 4 21
Griffons 10 2 18
SWD 10 3 16
Border 10 3 16

 

2010

SWD 10 8 39
Eastern Province Kings 10 8 37
Boland 10 5 29
Griffons 10 5 28
Border 10 3 16
Valke 10 1 11

 

2009

Pumas 10 9 44
SWD 10 7 31
Griffons 10 6 31
Mighty Elephants 10 5 26
Border 10 2 17
Valke 10 0 3

 

2008

Leopards 10 8 41
Griffons 10 7 32
Eagles 10 5 29
Pumas 10 4 24
Bulldogs 10 4 19
Mighty Elephants 10 2 13

 

2007

Eagles 10 9 41
Mighty Elephants 10 6 30
Griffons 10 5 27
Pumas 10 4 26
Leopards 10 3 21
Border 10 1 13

 

2006

Leopards 10 8 43
Kavaliers 10 8 41
Eagles 10 6 31
Elephants 10 3 19
Bulldogs 10 2 13
Griffons 10 2 11

 

Vodacom Cup Log Tables

2011

South Section

Pampas XV 8 8 37
DHL Western Province 8 7 33
Sharks XV 8 6 31
Toyota Free State 8 4 22
EP Kings 8 6 21
Boland 8 3 19
SWD Eagles 8 3 17
Border 8 1 7

 

2010

South Section

Boland Kavaliers 7 5 24
Sharks XV 7 5 23
Free State 7 5 23
Western Province 7 5 22
Pampas XV 7 3 20
Eastern Province 7 2 13
SWD 7 2 12
Border 7 0 3

 

2009

South Section

Sharks XV 6 6 27
SWD Eagles 6 5 23
Free State 6 4 21
WP 6 3 15
Border Bulldogs 6 2 10
Boland Cavaliers 6 1 8
Elephants 6 0 0

 

2008

South Section

Vodacom WP 7 6 29
Free State 7 5 25
Boland Kavaliers 7 5 24
Wildebeest 7 3 17
SWD 7 3 15
BA Mighty Elephants 7 2 13
Border 7 0 0

 

2007

South Section

Western Province 6 6 28
Free State 6 3 17
Boland Kavaliers 6 3 16
Mighty Elephants 6 3 16
Wildebeest 6 3 14
SWD 6 2 10
Border 6 1 4

 

2006

Wildebeest 13 11 56
Valke 13 10 50
Blue Bulls 13 9 45
Lions 13 7 38
Pumas 13 7 37
Cavaliers 13 7 37
W. Province 13 7 36
Cheetahs 13 7 36
Griquas 13 6 35
Leopards 13 7 34
Griffons 13 3 19
Elephants 13 3 18
Bulldogs 13 3 18
Eagles 13 1 10
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No sixth team for South Africa in Super Rugby?

September 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

The Sunday paper reported that South Africa’s chances of getting a sixth franchise into Super Rugby to accommodate the Kings looks very slim as the logistics of working the team into an already tight schedule may prove to be a stumbling block. (SA kry nié ’n sesde span)

With the Northern Hemisphere’s Heineken Cup future in shambles as the English and French object to the unfair representation by the Celtic nations the chances of South Africa being accommodated there also looks to be unrealistic.

Is this the end of the road for Super Rugby?

Sport Kit Team Merchandise

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Can the Kings’ defence defeat the Lions’ attack

July 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

For most teams Super Rugby 2013 is over but not for the Kings. Their real test only comes at the end of the month when they take on the Lions in two knockout matches with the winner on aggregate points difference going through to play Super Rugby in 2014, if SARU sticks to their word, that is.

For the Kings is was a season of revelations. They found that they were on par with the worst teams in Super Rugby 2013 and, against expectations, they won three games and drew one. They built a reputation of a team that plays with spirit for 80 minutes and somehow got the reputation as a good defensive team but they also got the reputation of a team with no real attack.

Well, two of these three reputations are warranted: they do give their all for 80 minutes and they are a team with no real attacking skills. However, their reputation as a good defending side owes more to the number of tackles they put in than to the effectiveness of their defence.

The fact is, the Kings’ defence is as poor as their attack.

During the course of the season they let in 69 tries, the third most tries let in after the Lions in 2010 (72) and the Rebels in 2011 (74), the only difference is that neither the Lions nor the Rebels were ever praised for their defence.

Looking at the Kings’ season they seemed to struggle against teams that ran at them (Chiefs, Crusaders, Hurricanes, Bulls) while they were relatively comfortable against teams with more conservative game plans (Rebels, Brumbies, Sharks (1st game), Stormers).

The Lions, on the other hand, spent their year so far playing lesser teams in the Lions Super Rugby Wooden Spoon Knockouts Preparation Programme (a.k.a. the Lions Challenge) in an effort to rebuild their team into a team capable of winning the knockouts and getting back into Super Rugby.

During the course of their programme they have built a team capable of attacking and breaking down defences but the question remains whether they can break down a Super Rugby level defence, even one as poor as that of the Kings.

Very few teams they played offered them enough on defence to answer that question but in the last few weeks they overcame a first half deficit against the Sharks and broke down the very conservative game plan of the Griquas while developing into an 80 minute attacking side.

However, against the Kings it will not be about playing festival rugby, as the Highlanders found out to their detriment. Attack without defence, attack without protecting possession will work in the Kings favour. The Lions will have to look to protect possession while their attacks will have to be deliberate and focused to create gaps and opportunities and their defence aimed at stopping the Kings getting forward momentum.

Provided the Lions protect their possession and limit the penalties they concede the Lions’ attacking game is ideally suited to overcome the Kings’ limited defence. The Lions have done what they could to prepare for the Wooden Spoon Knockouts and only time will tell whether they have done enough.

Lions Challenge:
19-Jan-13 vs Russia @ Ellis Park – Lions 51 : Russia 13
26-Jan-13 vs Cheetahs @ Ellis Park – Lions 33 : Cheetahs 17
2-Feb-13 vs Bulls @ Orlando Stadium – Lions 32 : Bulls 38
9-Feb-13 vs Kings @ Ellis Park – Lions 41 : Kings 31
16-Mar-13 vs Mont de Marsan @ Ellis Park – Lions 56 : Mont de Marsan 24
Vodacom Cup:
12-Apr-13 vs Griquas @ UJ Stadium – Golden Lions 24 : Griquas 11
19-Apr-13 vs Pumas @ Mombela Stadium – Pumas 14 : Golden Lions 23
27-Apr-13 vs Limpopo Blue Bulls @ Alberton – Golden Lions 161 : Limpopo Blue Bulls 3
03-May-13 vs Sharks XV @ Kings Park – Sharks XV 25 : Golden Lions 42
11-May-13 vs WP @ Ellis Park – Golden Lions 44 : WP 25
17-May-13 vs Pumas @ Mbombela Stadium – Pumas 28 : Golden Lions 42
Lions Challenge:
1-Jun-13 vs Samoa @ Ellis Park – Lions 74 – Samoa 14
15-Jun-13 vs Stormers @ Ellis Park – Lions 42 – WP 12
21-Jun-13 vs Sharks @ Ellis Park – Lions 33 – Sharks 29
6-Jul-13 vs Blue Bulls @ Loftus – Blue Bulls 12 – Lions 50
13-Jul-13 vs Griquas @ Ellis Park – Lions 26 – Griquas 12

On We Talk Rugby: The Lions Challenge is over, now for the Real Challenge
On Lions Pride: Golden Lions vs Griquas: A good test

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Management by Crisis, SARU Style

July 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

The Lions Kings debacle took another twist this week with tweets and rumours that SARU is attempting to head off the Wooden Spoon Knockouts, which will see the losers sit out next year, by merging the Lions and Kings for Super Rugby 2014 and 2015.

One can only speculate why SARU is scrambling to pull the fat out of the fire at this late stage of the game with only two weeks of regular Super Rugby matches remaining and the Wooden Spoon Knockouts only three weeks away.

My take on this is that SARU had bargained on one of two things to happen, or maybe even both:

  1. That the Kings will be so comprehensively outplayed in Super Rugby that their demise wouldn’t matter to most people, or
  2. That the Lions, after losing most of their players and sponsors, would not be able to put together a competitive side to effectively challenge the Kings in the knockouts.

Unfortunately for SARU neither these scenarios played out the way they had hoped.

The Kings performed better than their worst critics had hoped or predicted while the Lions not only retained a number of key players, they managed to recruit some fringe players from other unions and put together a competitive side while most of their sponsors stuck with them, albeit with lesser sponsorships.

Since the decision was made to drop the Lions in favour of the Kings SARU has done their best to see either or both these scenarios happen.

For the Kings:

  • SARU dragged the decision to how to include the Kings in Super Rugby out for seven months before the final voting in August 2012, limiting the time the Kings had to sign players.
  • SARU gave the Kings only one year to establish themselves in Super Rugby, a virtual guarantee for failure.
  • Apart from the Kings president, Cheekey Watson, not a single SARU EXCO member attended the Kings inaugural game against the Western Force in PE, showing a singular lack of support.
  • SARU remained quiet about the whole foreign / deemed local player issue, even after the Kings selected five foreign players in their extended squad, until the Kings had already left on tour, forcing them to break their squad and return some of these players.

For the Lions:

  • After the decision to include the Kings from 2013 was announced franchises were left with the impression that various options could be investigated for consideration and that the Kings inclusion will not be at the cost of an existing franchise. In the end it come down merely to a Lions vs Kings vote.
  • After the Lions were kicked out of Super Rugby they received no support from SARU, financial or otherwise, in trying to arrange a series preparation matches during 2013.
  • The compulsory friendlies against the other franchises were marred by certain franchises sending less than competitive teams to play the Lions, notably those that voted against the Lions in August last year.

Now SARU is trying to do a last minute patch up job that will satisfy no-one and that is doomed before it even starts.

That anyone can think that a Lions Kings merger could work, especially given the recent history between the two franchises, is mind boggling.

Management by Crisis, SARU Style:

  1. Create a scenario that all clear thinking people can foresee will lead to a crisis
  2. Put the scenario in place
  3. Do nothing while it plays itself out
  4. When the crisis occurs,  solve it with another scenario that will lead to a crisis

From: http://lionspride.co.za/management-by-crisis-saru-style

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The Kings in trouble?

March 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

No comment necessary

SARU appointed “a judicial sub-committee will investigate the allegation that the Kings breached Saru’s Super Rugby participation agreement by fielding more than two foreigners against the Chiefs.

According to a Saru press release, in the event of a breach being proved there is a wide range of sanctions available, starting from a caution to a maximum fine of R1-million or a recommendation to the General Council to suspend or expel the offending organisation.

Saru CEO Jurie Roux contacted Kings chairman Cheeky Watson on Tuesday to advise him of the inquiry and caution him against any potential breaches.”
Kings face sanctions

Why is this only being addressed now? This issue has been in the media ever since the Kings named all their foreign players in their extended squad.

According to Beeld this morning a Kings insider claimed that SARU had encouraged the Kings to sign the Argentinians as the IRB and SARU are looking to strengthen Argentinian rugby and based on this they don’t regard these players as “foreign” players.

Typically SARU kept quiet and hoped the issue will fix itself while the Kings “interpreted” the rules the way they want to.

This matter should never have reached this point and wouldn’t have if SARU got their heads out of the sand.

Update: Watson: Pumas are not ‘foreigners’

Watson said: “In the process leading up to the signing of foreign players last year, we were led to believe and even encouraged to sign Argentinean players – who currently participate in the Vodacom Cup as the Pampas – with the understanding that they would not be considered as foreign players, in the same way as Daniel Adongo, who is from Kenya, is not considered a foreign player.
Watson: Pumas are not ‘foreigners’

 

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About “real” foreigners, African foreigners and Argentinian foreigners

March 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

The question of who qualifies as a foreign player in South African rugby has come to the boil with the Kings naming five foreigners in their extended squad, playing three foreigners against the Sharks, four foreigners against the Chiefs and taking all their foreigners on tour down under.

SARU rules stipulate that a team may only have two foreigners in the Super Rugby squad. The Kings applied for special dispensation to exceed this number but was refused.

After the Kings played Daniel Adongo, Nicolas Vergallo and Hadleigh Parkes against the Kings questions were asked about their infringement of the rules. While SARU, in typical fashion, maintained a deafening silence the media then “explained” that Adongo is not really a foreign player as he is from the African continent. (I’m not sure whether Jaco Engles is a Namibian citizen. He was born in South West Africa when it was under SA administration but went to primary school, high school and university in Potchefstroom)

The Kings then played Tomàs Leonardi, Daniel Adongo, Nicolas Vergallo and Hadleigh Parkes against the Chiefs and, according to the media, SARU then asked the Kings to explain themselves but on Sunday the Kings left on their tour down under with all their foreigners in tow – Virgille Lacombe, Tomàs Leonardi, Daniel Adongo, Nicolas Vergallo and Hadleigh Parkes.

Now, in another twist, Beeld reports that the Argentinians, like African players, are not “real” foreigners as the IRB and SARU are trying to improve Argentinian rugby and that SARU had approved the use of Argentinians by the Kings and had actually encouraged the Kings to sign their Argentinians.

Cheeky Watson, in typical politician double-talk: “We are not deliberately trying to go against them (SARU), but we do feel that the interpretation of the term ‘foreign players’ is open for debate,”

Therefore, the only “real” foreigners in the Kings squad are the Kiwi Parkes and the Frenchman Lacombe.

Buitelanders: Nuwe kinkel in sage oor Kings

Why was this cloak of silence cast over the issue rather than being open and upfront about it?

Why was the issue allowed to drag on for months without clear answers?

Once again SARU, in their typical softcocked manner, maintained their silence throughout all the media speculations in the hope that the issue will not be questioned and will just go away.

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Lions vs Kings – the jury is still out

February 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

In front of 19000 spectators, the biggest crowd of the Lions Challenge so far, the Lions beat the Kings 41-31.

Supporters of both teams will read into the match result whatever they want but the Lions cannot be happy with they way the lost focus in the second half after leading 27-7. Whether it was due to the Kings fighting back, the spate of replacements that were sent on or some other reason, the Lions tendency to “take a break” for about 20 minutes per game has been a worry for a long time now and on Saturday it nearly resulted in an embarrassing loss.

All credit to the Kings for fighting back and taking their chances and congratulations to the Lions for sticking it out and pulling off a win.

“What matters isn’t how well you play when you’re playing well. What matters is how well you play when you’re playing badly.”  – Martina Navratilova

For the Lions the second half was a wake-up call – you cannot relax for 20 minutes in a game and expect to win the crucial games.

On the plus side, the Lions scrums, lineouts, rucks and mauls worked well and they totally outplayed the Kings in those departments but, considering the talented players in the backline, it is disturbing that they couldn’t score a single backline try.

On the negative side, letting in a spate of soft tries after doing all the hard graft and you have your opponents on the rack is inexcusable, even if a number of replacements are sent on which disturbs the flow. Replacement players should fit in to the onfield structures and not disrupt your game but enhance it. The Lions coaches will also not be happy with the number of handling errors and basic mistakes made on the day.

Would this Lions team have beaten a full strength Kings side? The point is moot, I know, but I think the Lions would still have dominated the set pieces and would, hopefully, have kept their focus better as there wouldn’t have been all the replacements to disrupt cohesion. But we’ll have to wait for July to get the answer.

The Lions have a five week break before taking on French bottom of the log club, Mont de Marsan, in March. Indications from the Lions coaching staff are that the Lions players will be used only sparingly in Vodacom Cup matches so they will remain focused on their preparation for the July knockout games.

During the next five weeks a number of injured players will get back onto the training fields and the squad, barring injuries during training, should be near full strength in time for their next match.

New injuries: Ross Cronje (broken thumb), Alwyn Hollenbach (hamstring)

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Lions team for the Kings game

February 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

The Lions announced their team and made some interesting changes. Marnitz Boshoff starts at #15 with regular fullback, Andries Coetzee on the wing while young lock, JJ Breet, replaces injured Willie Britz at the side of the scrum. With Bondesio injured Ross Cronje starts again behind the scrum and injury returnee, Whestley Moolman, gets the backup spot on the bench and is joined there by Dylan Des Fountain, another returning from injury.

Lions: 15 Marnitz Boshoff, 14 Andries Coetzee, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Derick Minnie, 7 JJ Breet, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert , 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg(c).

Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Gavin Annandale, 19 Warwick Tecklenburg, 20 Whestley Moolman, 21 Deon Helberg, 22 Ruhan Nel, 23 Dylan des Fountain

Southern Kings:15 Elric van Vuuren, 14 Marcello Sampson, 13 Wayne Stevens, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Siyanda Grey, 10 Wesley Dunlop, 9 Johan Herbst, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Mpho Mbiyozo, 6 Rynier Bernado, 5 Darron Nell (captain), 4 Tomas Leonardi, 3 Grant Kemp, 2 Boetie Britz, 1 Lizo Gqoboko.

Replacements:16 Dane van der Westhuizen, 17 Khwezi Mkhafu, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Daniel Adongo, 20 Thabo Mamojelle, 21 Scott Mathie, 22 George Whitehead, 23 Scott van Breda.

Lions stats:

Ave age: 23.57
Total provincial caps: 761
Total Super Rugby caps: 176
Total Bok caps: 0

Kings stats:

Ave age: 24.61
Total provincial caps: 860
Total Super Rugby caps: 37
Total International caps: 13

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The Foreign Kings no more

October 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

For once the SARU EXCO showed some guts and denied the Southern Kings the use of more than two foreign players. This means that they will have to make do with the two they already have, Clint Newland and Paul Perez.

Could this be because they

  1. lied about the Lions refusing them players, and
  2. tried to force SARU’s hand by signing extra foreigners before their request was approved?

http://www.rugby365.com/article/49992-saru-turn-down-kings-request

I know I’m being petty but I must say that this news makes my evening just a tad better.