- Sarel Pretorius, the former Cheetahs, Waratahs and Dragons scrumhalf, admits to having mixed feelings when it comes to the Southern Kings, the franchise he ended his playing career at.
- The 36-year-old, who recently confirmed his retirement, said it would be naive to turn a blind eye to the administrative uncertainty at the franchise, but also maintains that the region has some really talented players.
- He cites the heartening 2017 Super Rugby campaign as an example of the Kings' ability to breed success.
Sarel Pretorius admits the low-key ending to his playing career at the Southern Kings was "interesting times", bemoaning the franchise's administrative uncertainty but hoping its overall vision can one day be realised.
The popular and skilful 36-year-old scrumhalf - considered hugely unlucky not to be handed a Springbok look-in during his prime and given the moniker 'Super Sarel' - earlier this month confirmed his retirement after seeing out a two-year deal with the embattled outfit where he was rarely seen.
"Look, one shouldn't be in denial over the Kings' results over the past few years. It's not easy for any player to stomach PRO14 campaigns where one loses so consistently," he told Sport24.
"All one can say is that, at least for the past few seasons, all hasn't always been well. I think that's rather apparent."
Following the much-trumpeted and historic acquisition of a majority private shareholder in the Greatest Rugby Company in the Whole Wide World (GRC) at the start of 2019, the Kings had to cede control back to SA Rugby after the consortium failed to meet their contractual obligations.
"Things start at the top hey? I think many will hope SA Rugby brings some stability, but it's not really ideal. You want a franchise to stand on its own feet," said Pretorius.
"If one can get the structures in place, you also won't see so much talent moving out of the region. A player like Curwin Bosch (who twice made SA Schools playing for Eastern Province in the Craven Week) won't be so easily lost. Even players who initially make their mark here like a Makazole Mapimpi (or Andisa Ntsila) move on."
However, that weakness could be turned into a strength.
"During my time in Port Elizabeth, I got to work with some really talented players. The overall idea of the Kings is a good one. With some proper nurturing, the team can contribute a lot to South African rugby," said Pretorius, who has returned to Bloemfontein for an "exciting" new chapter as a relationship manager for a local insurance firm.
"The Kings did well in their last Super Rugby campaign in 2017. That was the best illustration of what the franchise can achieve. But it needs all the parts to work together."