JOHANNESBURG – The two biggest news items around the Cheetahs in the past fortnight involved players getting banned: one for spitting in an opponent’s face, the other for a dangerous tackle.
The Kings meanwhile have hardly registered a thought in the rugby world.
These two South African teams, which are playing in the Europe-based Pro 14, have been merrily going about their business since late August last year, but how many rugby fans know how many games they have each won and lost and who is the competition’s leading try-scorer?
We can say what we want, the money might be in European rugby and even in the Pro 14, but not too many fans in South Africa give a hoot about what the Cheetahs and Kings are doing in the competition.
Super Rugby still rules right now, even if the competition is at times boring, formulaic and predictable.
This year, for some reason, that is hardly the case, and bravo to that.
For what it’s worth, the leading try-scorer in the Pro 14 so far is Cheetahs wing Rabz Maxwane with eight tries, the Kings have won a paltry two games from 17 matches and the Cheetahs have won six of their 17 outings.
In last season’s competition - their first - the Cheetahs won 12 of 21 and played in the quarter-finals, while the Kings won just one of 21.
It is sad and disappointing that rugby in those two regions has taken so many steps backwards.
The Cheetahs, who were a South African powerhouse just a few seasons ago and were considered to be everyone’s “second favourite team”, are almost a forgotten entity outside of Bloemfontein, while the Kings winning just three out of their last 38 matches is a disgrace, but it is also very sad.
Both the Cheetahs and Kings have battled to hang onto their best players in the last two years - since they joined the expanded Pro 14 - and I don’t think I’d be far off to suggest rugby in those two regions is struggling.
One can now only hope that the big business investment in the Kings, announced last week, will rejuvenate the franchise and get them into a position where they can flourish and be a serious competitor in world rugby.
We must also hope that the purchase of a 74 percent shareholding of the Kings by “The Greatest Rugby Company in the Whole Wide World” (I think the name is great, by the way) will lead to other consortiums and business people getting involved in the game in this country.
Rugby is big business nowadays, and especially in Europe where clubs are very much privately owned, and maybe the only way this country is going to be able to keep up with the money-rich north is for more money to get pumped into our local game.
I wonder who’ll be next; maybe, hopefully, the Cheetahs?
They’re a union with a rich history, having produced a number of famous Springboks, and been the breeding ground for so many stars of the past and present.
They can’t surely continue plodding along like they are.
And, let’s hope the Kings can now work on shaking off the horrible whipping boys tag they’ve gained over the past few years, because they, too, are a union that has so much to offer this country.@jacq_west