Saru has confirmed that the Kings will play Super Rugby at the Lions’ expense in 2013.
This ends months of speculation about how the Kings – who were promised Super Rugby entry by Saru – would be accommodated in the tournament. After Saru’s hopes of getting a sixth franchise were dashed by Sanzar, the Lions, who finished last on the combined Super Rugby log this year, were always likely to make way for the Eastern Cape franchise.
The Lions will now have to settle for Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup rugby before getting a chance to get back into Super Rugby by playing a two-legged promotion-relegation tie against the team that finishes last in the SA conference next year.
‘All rugby provinces have been consistently in support of the need for an Eastern Cape team in the Super Rugby competition,’ said Saru president Oregan Hoskins. ‘That decision was first taken in 2005 but their inclusion has twice been postponed.
‘We made a commitment to the Kings to include them in 2013 and rugby has delivered on that commitment. The franchise represents more clubs than any other region – apart from the Stormers – and contains numerous leading rugby schools. It has been starved of top-class rugby competition for a decade and a half and now it has the chance to show what it can do.’
Hoskins said that Sanzar’s decision to grant the 15th franchise to Melbourne in 2011 – rather than the Kings – had created a dilemma for them. He said that the organisation and players had wanted a ‘rugby solution’ to accommodate six franchises in five places and this had been delivered, as challenging as it was for the relegated team.
‘The provinces asked for a rugby solution and we believe that this was the fairest and most transparent method to respond to what is undoubtedly a less than ideal situation,’ he said. ‘We also canvassed Super Rugby players before the start of the season, through the Players’ Association, and this was their preferred mechanism.’
Saru CEO Jurie Roux said that the decision to apply a promotion and relegation system from 2013 was standard practice in sport.
‘We operate promotion and relegation in all our Currie Cup competitions, with the bottom-placed team being relegated unless it wins a play-off,’ said Roux. ‘Our strategic goal is to have six strong franchises covering the whole of South Africa and this decision keeps all of them in play on an annual basis.’