Southern Kings hooker Michael Willemse celebrates after scoring against the Waratahs. Photo: EPA/Craig Golding

Enjoy the jig of Makazole Mapimpi in Super Rugby – in Southern Kings colours, nogal – while you can.

The commentators and crowds in Australia have loved him and the rest of the Kings on their tour, because they play with a freedom of spirit that belies their impending doom.

The Kings play with a smile on their face, even when they have more reason than most to sneer at the insincerity of it all. They have so many reasons to go with the motions, and see out what will almost certainly be their last fling of Super Rugby.

Some players have said hello and goodbye to the sights and sounds of Australasia all at once, knowing full well that they may never see Perth, Sydney and Melbourne again as players.

The more one thinks of it, the crazier it sounds that the powers-that-be have decreed that we can do without the distinct Eastern Province flavour in the franchise competition.

They have decided that aborting the mission to revitalise that part of the world’s appetite for the oval ball is not that big a deal.

Port Elizabeth and its band, its diehards, it’s flair, its promise and whatever potential the Watsons and their cohorts didn’t rinse; all of that can be cast away like last year’s Bok memories.

It’s a heck of a call, even if it may appear as the simplest cull to make. It’s a genuine middle finger at the developmental hub of most of the black players in South African rugby.

It isn’t random that we have isiXhosa commentary and Xhosa rugby shows on our small screens, because that demographic is the uterus of the darker shade of our game.

Makazole Mapimpi. Photo: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix

To snap that umbilical cord so savagely, and force players from that region to become national lurkers once more, is in keeping with Saru’s attitude towards the bigger picture.

They are ready to do a similar job on the other great nursery for talent, Bloemfontein. The Cheetahs wallow in the depths of the log every year because the dream of Grey College of Bloem is scattered across the rugby world.

Those people deserve better, and so do those schools.

The bloated Super Rugby format is in need of change and revitalisation, but the proposals that Saru have put forward cut deep.

You wonder if they even care that much, given the mess the game as a whole in this country is in. The lights will go out at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, and the vuvuzelas will go silent.

Rugby will still rage and roar in the region, even in national obscurity, because it’s all they have known for generations.

We will still see the Mapimpis of the world, but not in the colours that give them the greatest sense of pride.

There’s a sobering sadness in that, but it’s life when you are the poor cousin.

So enjoy moments like the Kings turning over the Waratahs on Friday.

We won’t see its like again.


Sunday Independent

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