RECENT weeks couldn’t have gone any better for Eastern Cape rugby despite the looming cull from Super Rugby for the embattled Kings. That this is even on the cards is plain daft by Saru and Sanzar, the body made up by South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.
Rumour has it that two or three franchises might be cut from the competition – two from South Africa or two from Australia and one from South Africa.
If two are from Australia, it would be The Force and Melbourne Rebels and then either the Cheetahs and Kings or possibly both and one from Australia.
For me, the Kings should not even feature in that list as they have never had a fair shot at making an impact in the competition. They were drafted in in 2013 and had the second-highest crowd numbers in the competition. They won two away games and drew one in Australia.
This was cruelly cut short when they were relegated after losing to the Lions who, admittedly, have become stronger and stronger. The Kings then had to disassemble the team that was beginning to show promise and start from scratch last year with no discernible off-season programme and plan.
As a result, their poor showing was no surprise. Things have been demonstrably better this season.
The results so far are beginning to improve as they won away from home and ran the Sharks close in Durban last week. If that is not enough to keep them in the competition, there is more.
In the Varsity Shield tournament we have three universities participating for the first time in addition to long-time Varsity Cup participant NMMU.
Of the three shield teams, two are in the semifinals to be played on Monday. One is the new kid on the block, Walter Sisulu University, who have taken the competition by storm.
What is significant about these two is that they are 100% black and are producing the goods.
WSU or the All Blacks, as they are affectionately known, have drawn their players not from the former Model C schools, but from unfashionable schools like Kwa Komani, who have produced a future star in wing Ntando Mfengu.
Crowd support has been phenomenal and the atmosphere in the stadium is second to none.
These are the stories South Africa will miss if we don’t open up doors for marginalised communities and the rural areas. Now from the deep rural areas each child has something to aim for. Their path is paved with opportunities to showcase their talent, culminating in playing for the Kings.
Compare that with the Cheetahs who have been abysmal and the crowd support has been as bad.
It’s time Saru put its money where its mouth is. Back the Kings and transform the game, both literally and figuratively.