Lions give Kings the finger

The Lions have turned down the Kings’ request to loan some of their players for Super Rugby next year.

The Kings confirmed in a statement on Friday that they had tried without success to sign several Lions players for their debut Super Rugby run next season. It’s likely that the Kings will face the Lions in a promotion-relegation play-off after the tournament (the last-placed South African franchise will have to compete for survival).

This is one of the reasons why the Eastern Cape franchise has asked Saru to lift its foreign player regulations, which only allow teams to field two non-South African players. It’s rumoured that the Kings are looking to recruit several Argentine and New Zealand players.

The Kings have also used other recruitment issues to motivate this request, which have occurred because of Saru’s delayed announcement of their Super Rugby status in August. At the time of the confirmation, the European window period for signing players had closed (interested South African players are only available in May 2013) and local players whose contracts expired this year had already agreed new deals.

The ARU made an exception to the foreign player regulations when the Melbourne Rebels made their Super Rugby debut in 2011.

Meanwhile, the Kings also revealed their plans for transformation.

They were unsuccessful in their attempts to retain most of their local talent without the attraction of Super Rugby. However, there are a number of players from their local academy who will be part of the Super Rugby squad in 2013. Fullback Soyiswapi Siviwe, wing Yamkela Ngam, lock Kuhle Sonkosi, prop Lizo Gqoboka, flank Thembelani Bholi and centre Shane Gates have all been identified as young players who are ready to make the step up.

In terms of developing future black players, the statement read: ‘We have been very vocal about our desires to develop and promote local talent, and in particular to accelerate the transformation of South African rugby and to develop quality black Springboks. As a result we have put a strong focus on developing and maintaining an academy, which is made up of predominantly home grown talent, with a strong commitment to a bottom-up transformation strategy.’