Saru has honoured its promise, and as one of the people who took the rugby union to task in my open letter ("Saru must keep promise to Kings” November 29), I am very happy with their decision.
Saru first made the promise in 2009 when it gave the Southern Kings the British Lions match. Then the union was talking about giving them a franchise in 2011. But late in 2010, Saru president Regan Hoskins changed the timeline to 2013.
There have definitely been delays in officially announcing the franchise, but the promise and commitment has been there since 2009. President Cheeky Watson and his technical team have been building a team ever since 2009 and I think this is where they really messed up.
The model they adopted of buying ready-made players in order to achieve Currie Cup status completely backfired because they bought a lot of old players who ended up failing to win promotion.
Most of those players are now not good enough to play Super Rugby. Had they come up with an all-inclusive plan that included players coming from Varsity Shield (UFH), Varsity Cup (NMMU), and the other two provinces (Border and SWD) they would have a very strong team now that would have gained more experience playing together for more than three seasons.
Also, Watson and the Kings missed a wonderful opportunity to make their franchise unique by just being different from the rest.
Instead they are the same as other South African franchises, which makes Saru’s decision to award them the franchise more unfair to the Lions.
The Kings have the same number of black players (10 or less) as other franchises, a predominantly white technical team as do the others, as well as a predominantly white administration, and now want more foreign players.
How are they different from the Lions and others?
What has really worried me is that ever since Saru made the decision, the only thing we’ve heard from Watson is complaint after complaint. He first complained about the fact that they were given one year of Super Rugby, then about fewer international (foreign) players, and the time it took for Saru to make the decision.
Not once have we heard him talk about his strategic imperatives and how he is going to go about running the franchise.
We need to see his grand plan and how Super Rugby, as a central cog of that plan, is going to help him achieve his goals. This is the time they should be garnering the community around to support the team, instead they are involved in a bitter battle with Saru to get more foreign players.
There is also a lot of unhappiness among the greater "black” community who feel used and undermined. Watson and his cronies have to quickly address this because a failure to do so will lead to nothing less than a disaster!
However, there’s no doubt in my mind they will be competitive. But they have to change their mindset now rather than later, otherwise they will fall into the same trap as the Lions.
The way I see it is that the Kings have one year of Super Rugby and a promotion/relegation match that, if won, will give them more credibility and respect from the greater rugby community. So Kings, whichever way you look at it, have 14 Super Rugby games to prepare for promotion/relegation matches with the Lions, and I think they can do it!
Qondakele Sompondo, Grahamstown