Decision time for PMB rugby clubs is fast approaching

2009-10-06 00:00

THE lines have been drawn in the sand and there are two options available to the Midlands Rugby Sub-Union council this week — vote to go the route of establishing a composite midlands senior team, or allow the status quo to remain.

An informal meeting to discuss this issue was held yesterday between representatives of the three senior midlands and Pietermaritzburg rugby clubs — Varsity, Collegians and Waratahs — and members of the MRSU council, to which The Witness was invited in a commendable gesture of transparency.

Collegians and Waratahs attended the meeting at Woodburn Stadium, but Varsity did not even have a junior representative available to report the contents of this important meeting back to their senior officials.

Collegians chairman Tony Day repeated his club’s position that they are not interested in the composite midlands senior team concept, an idea formulated by the MRSU aimed at drawing on all the best players in the region. The flagging fortunes of local teams at KZN Premier and First Division level — and questions regarding their sustainability — are the prime motivations of the local governing body. That Varsity weren’t at this important meeting reinforces their stated rejection of the proposal — and the pointlessness of asking them any further to hand over their Premier Division status to this proposed Midlands first and second XV concept.

The remaining senior club, PMB Waratahs, reiterated their support for the senior Midlands composite team concept.

Deadlock city — unless the KZN Rugby Union grant the MRSU permission to field a composite Premier Division team next season. Or PMB Waratahs relinquish their First Division status to this new team. It’s a decision that Waratahs chairman Fanie Crous said his club is prepared seriously to entertain, under certain conditions that shouldn’t be particularly difficult for the MRSU council to embrace.

Yes, Premier Division status would be first prize for this proposed Midlands senior team. But starting in the First Division instead is not as unattractive as it may seem. With the ambition of Premier Division rugby in mind, this new team could win the First Division — providing enough decent local players buy into the dream — and successfully challenge the higher league’s wooden spoonists in a promotion/relegation match at the end of next season. As things stand, beating this year’s basement dwellers, Varsity, would be a real possibility if sufficient buy-in is to be realised by the proponents of the new way.

MRSU president Piet Herbst said at the meeting that a significant number of the union’s best players have put their hands up for the Midlands team concept. And while he did not say it directly, this must include a healthy number from the two dissenting clubs.

Sub-union councillor Dave Dixon emphasised in his presentation that the MRSU’s plan for a competitive Midlands team revolved around creating a hub of excellence that would retain and attract the best local players — as well as those from outside PMB — rather than the current situation persisting, whereby there is a constant leakage of the most promising schoolboy and club players to more attractive rugby centres such as Durban and outside the province.

There are three official meetings this week, two at KZNRU level and one at MRSU level, to discuss and, hopefully, decide on this issue once and for all. Varsity’s application to reclaim their KZN U20A Division status from the Midlands U20A side is also on the table.

One thing is certain. Other than the Midlands U20 A and B team squads, no player is excited about the current set-up.

Surely the time for talking is over. Bold, courageous decisions must be made — and made now.

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