In a statement issued in Cape Town today, the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Sport and Recreation, Mr Butana Khompela, indicates that his Committee ‘condemns’the unilateral decisions taken by the Presidents Council of SARU to abandon the agreed relegation system’.
The statement further states that the decision ‘is an about-turn on agreements reached between SARU, government and the Committee during 2005 on the participation of the Southern Spears in the Vodacom Super 14 from 2007’.
This demonstrates a misunderstanding of the statement SARU released immediately after the Council meeting on March 24. The statement read:
‘On the issue of the Southern Spears’ guaranteed participation in the Vodacom Super 14 for the next two years, the Presidents Council decided to recommend to the Board of SA Rugby to establish an enquiry on the franchise to look at the viability of their Vodacom Super 14 engagement and their state of readiness for next year.
‘A further recommendation will be that there should be no relegation or promotion of the existing franchises at the end of this season. Either way, we are committed to helping them make it into the big league ‘ whether they take part in the Sanzar tournament now or later. The enquiry will help us make an informed decision on the way forward for the Spears.’
The SARU statement makes it clear that we are concerned about state of readiness of the new franchise, and, therefore, wish to make sure that they are ready for the big league, before they play in such a highly-competitive Sanzar tournament. We have not abandoned the idea of the Spears taking part in the tournament. It is purely a matter of carefully looking at the realities on the ground, and the legal obligation with Sanzar that we should field our best sides at the tournament.
Further, we wish to make it clear that Mr Khompela’s proposal that we need to provide a ‘comprehensive report on the state of readiness of the Spears’ is an exercise we were prepared to embark on, in any event, as our statement indicates.
It is also incorrect to state that the decision was ‘unilateral’. The Presidents Council includes the Presidents of the three Provinces involved (Eastern Province, South Western Districts and Border), including the Chairman of the Board of Southern Spears ‘ in his capacity as Acting President for Eastern Province. During that meeting, they also expressed concerns about the state of rugby in the region, and they did not object to the idea of an enquiry.
We wish to reiterate that the leadership of SA Rugby Union is committed to the cause of the Southern Spears, hence the desire to ensure that they trot onto the field of play a confident unit that will proudly reflect what South Africa is capable of. At this point, perhaps it is fair to repeat what we said in the March 24 statement: ‘Either way, we are committed to helping them make it into the big league ‘ whether they take part in the Sanzar tournament now or later. The enquiry will help us make an informed decision on the way forward for the Spears.’