Talk of the Lion Kings belongs in a world of fantasy. In reality, for now, it has to be one or the other in Super Rugby.
In 2016′s tournament expansion there will be place to accommodate both regions.
For now the promotion/relegation is the route it has to follow.
The key is whoever loses the promotion/relegation has to be looked after, as has happened with the Lions this season.
The Lions have managed to rebuild their identity through a strong Vodacom Cup campaign and through a series of Challenge matches. They have looked good. There is enthusiasm in Johannesburg at a time when there is usually despair.
In Port Elizabeth there is now despair when six weeks ago there was euphoria.
Super Rugby, for a struggling or a fledging region, offers the joys of a school playground but it also comes with all the ugliness associated with actually being in that playground.
The Kings have done brilliantly in their debut season. The crowds have been superb and the victories have been three more than most anticipated. The draw against the Brumbies in Canberra would never have been a thought, let alone a goal.
Give them their due. The Port Elizabeth franchise will be at the heart of South Africa’s Super Rugby challenge in the next decade.
For now the side will have to fight on the field for the right to next year’s tournament participation.
The South African Rugby Union made a mess of trying to accommodate a promise to the South African government in accommodating the Kings. There was never an immediate South African rugby winner in the entire mess, but there will be a winner post 2016. The Lions and the Kings will be there and both will be capable of delivering a challenge.
It is a road that will now have to be walked and to try and merge the two is not only logistically illogical it can only be destructive to the respective individual identity.
The two must play off against each other in a home and away and whoever wins play in 2014. The process will be repeated at the end of 2014 before sanity will prevail post the 2015 season when I expect so much to change in world rugby.
Long live the Lions. Long live the Kings.
Give each their identity and give each their chance.
Respect what each can bring to South African rugby and SARU please don’t try and force a compromise in the guise of the Lion Kings.
The mess that was created within SARU when it comes to the Kings and Lions, has to play out in a messy way until the start of the 2016 season. It is all about managing the mess and not about making a further one.