Spears will play in 2007 Super 14



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South Africa’s Port Elizabeth newspaper the Despatch says the Southern Spears will play in the Super 14 competition next year ‘and that decision cannot be reversed.

Their Francois Rank interviewed the Spears chief executive Tony McKeever, who was reacting to concerns raised yesterday by new SA Rugby president Oregan Hoskins about the relegation of the weakest South African team to make way for the Spears.

He said the presidents’ council resolution in June last year which was signed by the presidents of South Africa’s nine provincial unions could not be reversed until 2008.

The resolution guarantees that the Spears will be one of the five South African teams taking part in the Super 14 next year and states that the franchise which finishes last amongst the South African teams this year would be relegated.

Hoskins told The Herald on Monday that the situation would be addressed at the next South African Rugby meeting and he was hoping to find an amicable solution as to what could become a major stumbling block for rugby.

The controversy came to a head in February when the chief executives of the big five franchises ‘ the Cats, Sharks, Bulls, Cheetahs and Stormers ‘ refused to sign a Super 14 participation agreement.

They cited the clause in the agreement governing the relegation system as their reason for doing this.

They also cited a clause saying that the relegated franchise would have to give up eight of its players.

McKeever said: ‘This was a unanimous decision and that is how the Super 14 will be handled through until 2008.

‘If one is saying we don’t agree with the presidents’ council resolution, then that means we can change our president as well.

‘If anything can be changed it can only be changed by the presidents’ council in 2008.’

He said the resolution had the full support of Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile.

‘This was passed with the support and rubber stamp of the minister of sport.

‘ If they try to change this you can be assured that he will say that this is misrepresentation.’

Only the Spears have signed the participation agreement which is a necessity demanded from SA Rugby by Sanzar as well as the broadcast sponsor and the competition sponsor here.

The Cats are currently stuck at the bottom of the five South African Super 14 franchises, and are the one team in danger of going down..

The Sharks, the home of the new SA rugby president Hoskins, are doing a bit better than last season.

Although McKeever said SA Rugby’s constitution allowed for the presidents’ council to rescind its decision, it was highly unlikely because of the amount of planning which had already occurred.

‘You have to understand that this is a three-year plan they decided on.

‘In the six months following that decision, the competition and the structures were organised around (the decision).’

He also said SA Rugby would be opening itself up to damage claims if it rescinded its decisions. ‘It will have a cascading effect on sponsorship contracts, lease agreements and player contracts … the list goes on and on,’ McKeever said.

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