Lions want relegation play-offs

Lions president Kevin de Klerk says Saru’s proposal of automatic relegation isn’t the fairest way to accommodate the Kings next season.

Saru dropped a bomb on Friday when it confirmed its plan for the last-placed team on the SA conference log to make way for the Kings in 2013. As it stands, the Lions will fall out.

However, this decision is not final. The South African franchises asked for time to discuss an alternative way forward, and they will get their opportunity to negotiate a different solution at a meeting with Saru this Thursday. A final decision will then be made following further meetings with the Saru executive committee on 24 May and the Saru general council on 13 July.

So what is expected to happen at Thursday’s gathering? With the Lions in the hot seat, De Klerk hopes a fair decision can be made.

‘I’m expecting the right outcome,’ De Klerk told keo.co.za. ‘We were one of the unions that voted for the Kings to play Super Rugby, but a solution on how they would be accommodated was never made. We were expecting a “Super 16″ next year. It was never agreed that one of the current franchises would have to fall out of Super Rugby.

‘I think the ideal solution would be having promotion-relegation play-offs. Automatic relegation would have drastic consequences for the relegated franchise [in terms of financial and player loss].’

De Klerk also expressed his disappointment in the delay of a final decision being made, but added that he understood Saru’s difficult position.

‘With all our injuries this season, the fact that we don’t know what’s going to happen does create a lot of pressure. But Saru is also stuck between a rock and a hard place. It made promises to Eastern Province long before I was president of the Lions. I just hope a fair decision can be made.’

Last week, John Mitchell told this site that an amalgamation between the Lions and Cheetahs would be a suitable solution. He believed this would create a team with enough quality depth to challenge for the Super Rugby title. However, De Klerk said the Lions were not backing this initiative.

‘John said that in a personal capacity,’ said De Klerk. ‘I’m not saying a merger is a possible solution, and I’m not saying it isn’t one either. But it’s not a plan that the Lions are considering at the moment.’

By Gareth Duncan