rugby365.com columnist Grant Ball feels SARU's decision to promote ill-disciplined SK Walmers to the National Club Championships is a disgrace.
On Sunday, SARU announced that at a meeting of their Executive Committee in Cape Town on Friday, that Western Province Super League A club SK Walmers would be the sole team invited to this year's tournament.
Normally, who goes to the Club Champs as the invited team wouldn't be a point for debate. However, this isn't a normal situation.
Just two weeks before the decision was made, an article was written describing SK Walmers' players and supporters' involvement in a fracas in a pre-season 'friendly' that left one opposition player with 37 stitches (to read more on that, CLICK HERE!).
In short, eventually over three months after the incident, a hearing was heard, Walmers pleaded guilty to all charges, and one supporter - whose son Ashieq Wise plays for the side and will now be present at Club Champs - was banned from all rugby until December.
That ban had little effect, as Wise Senior was seen at other games after the 'disciplinary action' was handed out. He had to attend another hearing, but this just shows the disdain for any authority and indicates little remorse for the incident.
Now that SK Walmers have, in effect, been rewarded for this act of violence, stinks of injustice. SARU didn't justify their reasons for the decision, but someone from the organisation should do. SARU needs to answer for SK Walmers' inclusion and justify how their behaviour warrants it.
Who knows whether the Executive Committee know about this fight? If they do know about it, and they still rewarded them for the acts of violence, that is disgraceful. If the Executive Committee didn't know about the SK Walmers incident, that's even more disgraceful that these 'custodians' of our country's rugby don't have any idea of what's going in the game.
With this decision, SARU have in effect not only justified SK Walmers' actions against Hamiltons and rewarded mediocrity (SK Walmers are fifth on the WP log), but have also rewarded trouble-makers.
How can SARU ensure Walmers' supporters don't behave like this again or ensure that the guilty party stays in line with his ban and isn't there again? That's the problem: SARU or SK Walmers can't guarantee anything.
SARU would never have invited a team ahead of SK Walmers on the WP log, such as UCT, Hamiltons or Durbell, as they are traditionally 'white' clubs. The invited team is usually one from a 'previously disadvantaged' area, which is the correct decision.
But why did it have to be SK Walmers? Their disciplinary record doesn't' warrant it. Another club from Boland, or Eastern Province's African Bombers, would've been better ambassadors for their clubs.
By inviting SK Walmers, SARU have essentially sent the message to their players and supporters that the type of behaviour in the Hamiltons incident is OK. In fact, you get incentives for it.
Edenvale and Soweto were involved in a similar incident three weeks ago, with Edenvale banned six days after the event. SARU's decision to invite SK Walmers would be akin to inviting Edenvale to the Club Champs, but correctly, that would never happen.
The Club Champs aren't about the financial rewards, but also the exposure that goes along with being at the prestigious event. SARU have sent out the incorrect message, and they or anyone else shouldn't be surprised when (and not if), SK Walmers are involved in another act of violence.
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