How do the numbers stack up?
As the Southern Kings and Lions go head to head to determine who plays Super Rugby next year, the debate rages on as to who deserves it more.
There is a strong argument for the traditions of the Eastern Cape and the need for a high-profile team in a top competition, which will - supposedly - aid the long-term development of black players in the region.
The Lions have an equally rich rugby history and as the financial capital of South Africa some claim Johannesburg's pride should be afforded a spot at the top table.
We have done the political debate to death!
However, how do the numbers stack up?
Was the Lions' last season of Super Rugby (2012) really that much worse than the Kings' first? How do the Lions' debut season (2006, we are disregarding the abortion that was the Cats) compare to the Kings?
What about other teams in their first year of Super Rugby - such as the Cheetahs (yes, again ignoring the Cats), the Western Force and the Rebels?
First, let us take a look at the Kings versus the Lions.
In 2013 the Kings played 16 games, won three, drew one and lost 12 - to finish last on the conference and global standings. They had a home winning percentage of just 25 - two wins from eight games in Port Elizabeth. The Kings scored 298 points, conceded 564 (a point’s difference of -266). They scored 27 tries, let in 69, collected two four-try bonus points and did not get a single losing (for finishing within seven) bonus point. They finished with 24 points on the table.
In 2012 the Lions won three of their 16 games and lost 13. They also finished last in the conference and global competitions. All three their wins were at home, it is a percentage of 38. They scores 317, conceded 460 (points difference of -143), scored 30 tries, let in 52, scored two four-try bonus points and three losing (finishing within seven) bonus points to finish the season with 25 points.
There is not much to chose in those stats, although the Lions fans will want to claim 'victory' because of table points, while the Kings had an additional draw which the Lions didn't get.
Let us look at the Lions' debut season, after their divorce from the Cheetahs. Back in 2006 there were just 14 teams, meaning just 13 matches in the season. The Lions won two and drew one. Both their wins were at home (two from six, 33 percent), while the draw was on the road - much like the Kings this year. They scored 220 points conceded 405 (points difference of -185), scored 21 tries, let in 47, two four-try bonus points and three losing bonus points - for 15 competition points. The important fact is they did not finish last, but 13th.
Next we look at the Cheetahs in their debut season. Five wins from 13 games, three home wins (43 percent), 272 points for and 367 against (points difference of -95), they scored 27 tries, conceded 43, collected three four-try bonus points and four losing bonus points to finish with 27 points and 10th place on the standings. Not bad for a bunch of 'rookies'.
Now, eight years later, they were in the play-offs.
The Western Force also joined in 2006. They won just one of their 13 matches, but had two draws. They did not win a single game at home. They scored 223 points, conceded 373 (points difference of -150), scored 26 tries, let in 47, collect two four-try bonus points and two losing bonus points for 12 points and last place on the table.
The Rebels, who made their debut in 2011 when the competition was expanded to 15 teams and the much-maligned conference system was introduced, won three of their 16 games. They won two of their eight home games (25 percent), scored 281 points, conceded 570 (points difference of -289), scored 30 tries, let in 74, collected two four-try bonus points and scored two losing bonus points to finish last with 24 points.
It is not difficult to see why the Kings will claim to have produced one of the best debut seasons - as they were clearly better than the Force and marginally superior to the Rebels. However, they were not really better than the Lions' debut, while the Cheetahs can claim the unofficial title as the 'best rookies'.
By Jan de Koning