Pressures on South African rugby teams to escape relegation
IN Super Rugby, Sanzar determines the number of teams included in the Super Rugby competition, and the number of teams per conference.
In the present version of Super Rugby, we have 15, and an equal five per conference.
Once a conference has been awarded their five Super Rugby licenses, it's up to the conference's peak body to determine their makeup.
For Australian and Kiwi super franchises, once they have won a licence their existence is assured.
In South Africa, however, the competition is now regulated via a promotion/relegation structure.
This year the Southern Kings came into play after the South African government pressured the South African Rugby Union to include a team from the Eastern Cape region.
For obvious reasons, SARU agreed and the Kings replaced the under-performing Lions from Johannesburg.
I've played in a competition with promotion/relegation qualification rules.
Whilst promotion and relegation has merits, it's very, very tough for the clubs positioned in the relegation 'zone'.
Uncertainty, pressure, constantly questioning your moves and self-belief, as well as challenging issues with planning, are a constant cause for concern.
Should the Kings continue to struggle for wins, the pressure will build and build.
It was tough enough for my old team, Nippon Steel, which had a very long and strong history and culture.
But for newbies like the Kings, it has to be excruciatingly difficult.
Essentially, the Kings have been given one year to prove themselves in the toughest professional rugby tournament in the world.
With nine rounds to play, and a two from ten record, they are sitting second last overall (the Highlanders are last) and right on the bottom of the South African conference.
Not only are they playing for their pride and their livelihoods, they are also playing for their very existence in Super Rugby.
Should they be relegated, they drop back to Currie Cup second-division. Talk about pressure.
Fellow South African oputfit the Cheetahs were not put under such scrutiny and have developed into a strong outfit.
But it has taken six or seven years.
Even though the Kings were flogged by the Tahs last weekend in an eleven-try, seventy-two to ten spanking, they do play the Highlanders at home on Sunday.
At least they may see a W when they need it most against the fourteenth-placed side.