Andisa Ntsila was one of the stars of the Southern Kings in Super Rugby. Photo: Deryck Foster/BackpagePix

The turbulence and tribulations facing rugby in the Eastern Cape, a heartland and stronghold of black rugby, is monstrous.

New calls have been lodged this week for a boycott on the Kings as they prepare to play their second home game of the newly formed PRO14.

It is crushing to see how a union such as Eastern Province has crumbled into nothing, with half-hearted efforts aimed at jolting it back to life only making things worse. 

Almost metaphoric, the Boet Erasmus Stadium, which lasted hosted an international in 2006 against Scotland, is now in tatters and ruined.

Eastern Province rugby has had to deal with Cheeky Watson and his dictatorship of mismanagement.

It has had to endure SARU and their willy-nilly game of chess between unions, playing the Lions off against the Kings for Super Rugby status back in 2013.

That game also returned in 2016 as SARU again tried to revive the struggling and corrupt union into the brutal playing field that is franchise rugby.

SARU took administrative control in order to stop an exodus of unpaid players, but essentially, they were simply trying to legitimise a hurried move to have a sixth franchise.

When the Kings finally did start to find their feet, Sanzaar were on hand to deal a killing blow as SARU bowed to pressure and cut not only the Kings, but the Cheetahs as well – another traditional bastion of South African rugby power.

There was promise for the Kings though, seemingly a silver lining, as they were duly added to the PRO14.

However, this has been a bit of a red herring because it is essentially a brand new team that has to once again rebuild.

The same Kings team that triumphed over the Sharks and the Bulls in Super Rugby is no longer present, with something like only four players remaining.

This Kings team is a hatchet job of loaned players and journeymen, and it has shown. Their games overseas thus far have been painful, as the players look out of sorts and out of their depth – understandably though, it must be said, as they are up against well established, structured and settled sides.

What is more disheartening is that even the usually unwavering support from the Eastern Cape has waved goodbye.

The Kings, in their first match back at home in this new opportunity, had to endure their voices echoing round an embarrassingly empty stadium.

This week, they face Zebre at home and across the local media, the call has been to boycott the game in order to force SARU to give up its death-grip on the union.

Eastern Province rugby has been used and abused by SARU recently, and while it was in a death spiral before, the interfering done by SARU has only seen it dragged under water quicker.

 

The Mercury