No real winners in play-off

Jon Swift

Jon Swift

The thought that hangs heavy on this afternoon’s Super Rugby relegation play-off at Ellis Park is that regardless of the result, there are really no winners.

Debate if you will the farce that surrounded the demotion of the Lions, reducing a proud union to begging bowl status. It is clearly unacceptable that the biggest and most economically powerful city in the country should be snubbed. And equally shameful that a man as deeply imbued with the ethos of the game as Kevin de Klerk, should be treated so shabbily.

Balance that against the craven decision to elevate the Kings from what is effectively and historically Eastern Province, a union which has never won the Currie Cup, to a level that is so effectively termed in Afrikaans as “bo hul vuurmaakplek”.

There can be no question that the Eastern Cape has a huge pool of players and that there must be some machinery put in place to help those players continue to develop. But to stealth bomb the greater good of South African rugby for a single, narrow agenda cannot truly benefit the game as a whole.

There will be a winner of the game at the stadium which hosted the 1995 World Cup by the time the chilly Highveld night creeps across the terraces.

Should this be the Lions, many will doubtless feel that the balance has been restored and one of the traditional powerhouses of the provincial game has been saved from inevitable penury in the purgatory of virtual faceless non-existence outside the Currie Cup.

It is, for many, the righting of a wrong perpetrated, unthinkingly it seems, by this country’s rugby bureaucrats.

If the Kings claw back the deficit from losing the first leg encounter at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, the area returns to an uncertain limbo imposed by unthinking authorities who gave them only a solitary season in Super Rugby. The Kings returning to obscurity is also clearly not to the greater long-term benefit of the South African game.

Neither would a merger between the disparate interests and geographical locations of the sides. An extra South African franchise has also been effectively vetoed.

No, there are no real winners here.




today in print

today in print