Argentina just can’t seem to stay out of the news this month…. first they celebrated the election of their first pope, then continued to make waves over the Falkland Islands (or “Las Malvinas”, if you prefer) and now everyone’s favourite rugby administrator, Cheeky Watson, seems to be claiming them as “local players” for the purposes of Super Rugby.
Ok, so the above is perhaps an oversimplification of the latest development in an ongoing spat between SARU and the Kings. For the record, I stick to my earlier position on this one in that I feel the Kings should have been given some leeway in terms of foreign player numbers, given how unreasonably drawn-out the process that led to their Super Rugby inclusion was. However, given that SARU duly refused to budge on the issue, I can’t shake the feeling that Cheeky and his lads are being a little disingenuous about this one – in short, they aren’t boxing clever at all.
For those not up to speed, the Kings fielded three foreign players in their match 22 that took on the Chiefs last week. After successfully making the point that neither Dan Adongo nor Jaco Engels should count as foreign, since both originate from other African countries, the Kings then took it a step too far by including Argentine players Nicolas Vergallo and Tomás Leonardi, along with Kiwi centre Hadleigh Parkes, in their 22, even though Leonardi was brought in as a last-minute replacement for Darron Nell. SARU confirmed yesterday that they’d be launching an official inquiry into the matter, with possible sanction including a docking of log points, a fine, or (shock, horror) even expulsion from the competition. Obviously it would be impossible to kick the Kings out at this stage of the game, making that last threat a useful media soundbite, if nothing more.
SARU CEO Jurie Roux has apparently contacted Watson to explain the implications of what has been done and warned him against any further transgressions; Watson, in turn, has lashed out at SARU, claiming the Kings were mislead into believing that Argentine players would not count as foreigners. SARU’s duplicity went even further, according to Watson, who told Sport24 that “in the process leading up to the signing of foreign players last year, we were led to believe and even encouraged to sign Argentinian players – who currently participate in the Vodacom Cup as the Pampas XV – with the understanding that they would not be considered as foreign players, in the same way as Daniel Adongo, who is from Kenya, is not considered a foreign player.”
Fasten your seat belts, chaps, since it seems this one is set to get uglier yet. I can’t help feeling a little disappointed about the way that Watson is approaching this one, though. It seems an awful fuss to make over, essentially, one or two players. The Kings have done superbly in their first three outings and have managed to garner a lot more support than I would have expected. If Cheeky continues to push the envelope in this fashion, though, he’ll very quickly find himself and his team, more isolated than ever.Tweet