PMB Varsity and Collegians likely to shoot down plan for composite team

2009-09-15 00:00

WITH Friday’s deadline for submitting their findings looming, indications are the clubs that fall under the Midlands Rugby Sub-Union (MRSU) banner are in disagreement about forming a composite KZN Premier League team.

“Low-profile” clubs are virtually unanimous in giving the MRSU proposal the thumbs-up, but the two major players in this emotional issue are steadfast in their rejection of the idea.

Maritzburg Collegians players have reportedly responded with a resounding “no”, while the KZN capital’s only Premier Division club, PMB Varsity, are likely to respond in the same way.

Varsity have applied to the KZN Rugby Union to have their U20A division status given back to them, having “loaned” it to Midlands U20A team for the last two seasons.

The MRSU proposal appears dead in the water without the backing of Varsity in particular, as they would have to agree to relinquish their Premier Division status in order for the composite “Midlands” or “Maritzburg” rugby club team to be formed.

However, Varsity’s foothold in the KZN Premiership is tenuous, to say the least. Having propped up the table for the past two seasons, Varsity have hardly been able to win more than one or two games a season while regularly conceding 50, 60 and even 70 point deficits to Durban’s big guns.

The question has to be asked, what is the point of continuing in this manner? In 2008, first division winners Hillcrest came within a whisker of beating Varsity in the promotion/relegation match. This season, thankfully for the campus-based club, there was no challenger that felt ready for premier division rugby.

Why are Varsity and Collegians so against the composite team? For one thing, it will mean a massive relinquishment of status. Varsity in particular would have to give up premiership status and be content to play in a local first division league.

One point of argument is that without their top players (who would then be in the composite team) Varsity and Collegians would quickly wither and die. You can see their point. Then add into the emotional melting pot that both clubs are around 100 years old.

However, times are changing and the competitive Midlands U20 A and B teams have about 20 players coming into senior rugby next year. The promising young players want to play premiership rugby and, having taken notice of the fortunes of Varsity, do not want to play for them — they want to continue as a Midlands senior team.

Another school of thought says that Varsity must remain in the KZN premier division, as they are the only vehicle through which meaningful recognition for players can be found.

Varsity have a 100-year-old club identity and quality facilities. Working to a 2011 goal, they could qualify for the popular, televised Varsity Cup competition that incorporates the top eight tertiary institutions, giving players major exposure. This would bring funds to the Varsity coffers and help to attract and retain the best schoolboy players.

As to the merits or otherwise of the right course of action, one could go on and on, suffice to say that the current status quo cannot remain. Something has to be done — and fast — or Pietermaritzburg and midlands club rugby is doomed to become a social backwater of the game.

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