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Bhisho warns SARU over elimination of Southern Kings from Super Rugby

JULY 6, 2017
Bhisho warns SARU over elimination of Southern Kings from Super Rugby

The Portfolio Committee of Sport, Recreation, Arts & Culture in Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature on Thursday said that it has noted with great concern the widely reported plan of the South African Rugby Union to eliminate the Southern Kings from the Super Rugby Competition.

"We wish to warn SARU against targeting the Southern Kings for elimination from Super Rugby Competition to meet the SANZAR requirement of 15 Teams in the entire competition," said Vuyani Limba, DSRAC Portfolio Chairperson in the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature.

"As the representatives of the Eastern Cape people, where precisely 1 528 345 people voted the African National Congress (ANC) in our province into power during the 2014 General Elections, we reject the purported elimination of the Southern Kings Franchise from Super Rugby Competition, as has been widely reported in the mainstream media.

"As the representatives of the people, we do not take light the 70% popular mandate given to us by the people of Eastern Cape. It is in this context that we demand the Eastern Cape to be afforded the space it deserves in the South African Rugby political arena.

"We wish to urge the leadership of the South African Rugby Union to respect democracy bestowed on us by the people of Eastern Cape."

Limba said that the committee rejects the purported elimination of Southern Kings from the Super Rugby Competition for the following reasons:

  • The key condition in rugby unity talks which took place prior to 1994 democratic breakthrough was transformation of the South African rugby which remained lily white for decades in our country. As the negotiations advanced it became clear to all in the South African rugby leadership that transformation is sacrosanct and the latter is relevant even today. We raise this matter because no rugby transformation can take place in South Africa without the Eastern Cape Province. If you purport to eliminate the Southern Kings Rugby Franchise from the Super Rugby Competition undoubtedly SARU leadership must understand that such decision will be nothing else but tempering with the cornerstone of rugby unity talks.
  • The Eastern Cape Province has 783 rugby clubs and 80% of them are black clubs. Almost all the black players representing South Africa at all levels come from the Eastern Cape Province. As the political leadership of the Eastern Cape we cannot allow our province to be eliminated from the Super Rugby Competition because such will be perpetuation of the past racist policies.
  • We will never abdicate our responsibility and allow the South African Rugby leadership to abandon the fundamental principle of rugby unity talks. 
  • As the Eastern Cape Province we meet the SANZAR requirement of acceptable stadia. Our facilities meet the international rugby standards as many tests have taken place in Port Elizabeth and East London.
  • On strength versus strength criteria nobody can rule out the competency of the Southern Kings Rugby Team as our boys have proved themselves during 2017 rugby season despite the short notice inclusion in Super Rugby Competition.
  • On spectatorship we have proved to all rugby loving people during our stint 2013 rugby season by pulling crowds to Nelson Mandela Stadium before we were kicked out in 2014. In 2017 the attendance records speak for themselves outshining some established rugby Franchises.
  • The Eastern Cape Province cannot be made a sacrificial lamb whilst Gauteng Province enjoys 2 Franchises, why allowing two teams in one Province and leave Eastern Cape Province empty handed.
  • The top rugby schools in the country are based in the Eastern Cape hence more than 60% of rugby players participating in Super Rugby black and white have Eastern Cape roots. We have four Universities where rugby academies to groom young players exist. This will make our province a breeding ground for other provinces without the Eastern Cape benefitting from nurturing such golden talents as it used to be in the past.
  • On financial viability the problem is not unique to Southern Kings Franchise only it affects others as well including SARU. 
  • The greater part of Eastern Cape Province is rural and highly affected by the triple challenges of unemployment; poverty and inequality. If you eliminate Southern Kings Franchise undoubtedly such may be tempering with the lives of our children who play rugby at home without subjecting them to huge costs of paying rental and transport instead of feeding their families as bread winners.

"We conclude by reminding the South African Rugby Union leadership with the entire Council that during the dark days of apartheid, the Eastern Cape Province led in stopping the racist tours to our country less you forget under a vicious cruel racist government," said Limba.

"Now we have a democratically elected government which is highly committed to transformation of our country and can never ignore the argument advanced in this submission. 

"We are not threatening SARU leadership but would like them to urge the entire SARU Council to refrain from making Southern Kings a sacrificial lamb because such will be tempering with the corner stone of rugby transformation of which is key in government agenda."

Limba further said that the South African Rugby Union leadership failure to act responsibly may affect hosting 2023 Rugby World Cup.

"The Eastern Cape Province demands its place under the sun as a result we will leave no stone unturned to pursue this noble goal."