The Southern Kings will be included in Super Rugby in 2013, but how they will be accommodated has not been decided yet.
Saru CEO Jurie Roux confirmed the news at the Springbok coach announcement in Newlands on Friday afternoon, where Heyneke Meyer was unveiled as Peter de Villiers’ successor. While the main focus from the national media was on Meyer’s appointment, keo.co.za got clarification from Roux about the Kings’ Super Rugby future.
‘There were many topics discussed at our executive meeting. On the Southern Kings specifically, it has been decided that they will play in Super Rugby in 2013, and this was supported by all parties concerned,’ Roux told this website. ‘However, we haven’t decided on how we will accommodate them with the five other South African franchises. We will bring this up at our AGM [annual general meeting] in March, and have further discussions with our partners at Sanzar about how we will accommodate six teams. We will also allow the Southern Kings to give their suggestions for possible solutions.’
The fact that the Eastern Cape has been given definite Super Rugby participation is a great step forward for the national sport and for a province that’s rich in black talent and has been starved of top quality rugby. However, with Saru confirming this news without a decided solution is a major concern.
With this decision to come into effect next season, how does Saru plan to accommodate their six franchises should Sanzar decline the proposal of including all teams in an already extended and lengthy tournament format? Will the Cheetahs and Lions’(South Africa’s least successful franchises) Super Rugby participation be under threat? Will they be forced to return to the Cats amalgamation initiative or duel in promotion/relegation play-offs?
A complex decision like this should’ve been finalised before the Kings’ Super Rugby participation was confirmed. Saru will now be pressurised in finding a solution that will ensure the happiness of all parties. The chances of achieving that, however, is highly unlikely.
Meanwhile, EP president Cheeky Watson, who was one of the several union bosses present at the press conference, said he was delighted with the Kings’ Super Rugby inclusion.
‘That is the main prize and we are delighted,’ said Watson. ‘Whether Saru is late in deciding on how they will accommodate us is debatable. The most suitable solution would be to have all six franchises playing Super Rugby.
‘The Southern Kings can only grow from here now,’ he continued. ‘We have struggled to recruit top-class players in the past because you have to be playing Super Rugby to be in contention for Springbok selection. And that’s a requirement for the best players. But knowing that we will definitely play in next year’s tournament will help us build a strong and competitive squad.’
By Gareth Duncan