Screw Lions, give us Kings

David Moseley

Jake White was obviously taking the piss over the weekend when he told reporters that dropping the Lions out of the Super Rugby tournament would be a "tragedy".

Jake, pal, I’ve got news for you. Super Rugby itself is already a tragedy, with a good dollop of farce in the Australian conference, and a sprinkling of comedy on show whenever the Lions try to tackle or the Stormers attempt a backline move that doesn’t involve swinging the ball aimlessly wide.

The real tragedy, Jake, is that the powers-that-be, if one can even call them "powers", have let the once great tournament dilute into nothing more than a weekend of cloned 120kg meatheads barging into each other. If I wanted to see that on a regular basis, I’d simply go to the nearest farm and watch the cows wander around. At least then there’d be fewer reset scrums.

But the Lions. They’re rubbish. They’ve always been rubbish. Apart from two seasons when Laurie Mains produced miracles like getting them to the semi-finals and feeding an entire stadium by pulling an endless supply of two meter-long hake out of his fish tank, the Lions have underperformed to point of “tragedy”. Losing 13 games in a season? Come on. How can you possibly defend that?

As it stands, they’ve lost eight from nine this season. If they win again in 2012 it’s because the team will have rocked up at a junior school rugby festival, and taken part just to make themselves feel better. But even then I wouldn’t count on them finishing the tournament unbeaten.

Excuses, excuses

And don’t come with excuses about injuries, how sad the players are that they have to live in Joburg or how they may be feeling uncertain because the Kings look guaranteed to take the Lions place in 2013. Bollocks. Every sports hack is so up in arms about how unfair it is that the Kings may (will?) replace the Lions that they fail to see the obvious: the Lions don’t deserve Super Rugby (whatever that’s supposed to mean, because the tournament is far from super).

Jake reckons that a union with such a rich rugby history should be playing Super Rugby, “a franchise like the Lions has a lot of history”, are his words quoted in one story. Well, that’s just the thing Jake, the Lions Rugby Union has a lot of history, but the franchise only dates back to 1998. They have no more Super Rugby history than the Brumbies. There’s always been a distinction between the provincial teams and the Super Rugby teams in South Africa, so even attempting to play the history card is a fool’s game.

Don’t get me wrong. Whoever conceptualised the process of getting the Kings into Super Rugby should never work in South Africa again. The whole sorry debacle has once again made South African rugby a laughing stock in the southern hemisphere. In fact, whoever thought that we had the capability to provide five quality teams in the tournament was off their rocker. It’s blindingly obvious that five teams is one too many, and 15 in the tournament is a mockery. The final is in August for god’s sakes.

But more than anything, screw the Lions. They’ve had their chance and they’ve fucked it up. Give the Kings a chance. They can’t be any worse. And the people of the Eastern Cape could do with something to laugh at on a Friday night.

I was in a bar in Port Elizabeth watching the Lions play the Brumbies on Friday night. Not one person was watching the game (probably because the match was an affront to their delicate senses). No one so much as glanced at the score. That’s no way to spend your Friday night, man. PE needs rugby. It needs the Kings. It needs something to do on the weekend. And for that reason, bring on the Kings. Also, the Lions are embarrassing because they should be better. The Kings? Well, if they’re only marginally better than what people expect (ie they beat the Rebels) it’s boom time for Eastern Cape rugby.

- Follow @david_moseley on Twitter.

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