Jitters as Kings await their fate

Side’s Super Rugby status will be known in three weeks

The Southern Kings are facing an agonising three week wait before South African rugby chiefs make a crucial decision on whether they will be cut from Super Rugby.

Months of indecision came to an end yesterday when Saru announced that a special general meeting would be held in Cape Town on July 7 to confirm the four South African entrants to a revised Super Rugby competition from next year.

It is known that Saru chief executive Jurie Roux met with the EP executive in Port Elizabeth this week. Because of the delay, there has been speculation that the Kings and the Cheetahs have already been cut and will compete in an enlarged European Pro12 competition next season.

There has been strong backing for the Kings to stay, even if it is in the guise of an Eastern Cape franchise. Former Springbok Nick Mallett has proposed that the country be divided into four regions, with Gauteng (Bulls and Lions), KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape (Kings and Cheetahs) and the Western Cape making up the South African franchises.

Next month’s general meeting has the constitutional responsibility for determining the SA teams to participate in Super Rugby.

Roux said the meeting would decide on a proposal from the executive council, which in turn would have received a recommendation on the participants from the franchise committee, whose members are representatives of the Super Rugby teams.

The proposal will also be debated by the non-franchise committee, which comprises the chief executives of the 14 provincial rugby unions, before reaching the special general meeting.

Despite widespread speculation that the Kings are already out of Super Rugby, EP Rugby Union president Andre Rademan and Kings chief operating officer Charl Crous have stressed that remaining in the Sanzaar competition is top prize,

After the Kings scored a historic win over the Sharks in front of 22 000 fans at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Rademan made his feelings clear.

“Recent reports that I would prefer the Kings to participate in a European rugby competition, rather than play Super Rugby are without foundation, and wrong,” he said.

“I will do everything within my power to secure the continued participation of the Kings in Super Rugby.”

When the talk of the Kings being chopped first emerged, Crous said it would be premature to assume they would not be among South Africa’s four franchises to appear in Super Rugby next year.

“No decision has been made on that question yet. Various options on the way forward will have to be assessed,” he said.

“As advised by SA Rugby, the franchise committee will first consider the criteria on which the decision is to be made.

“After that, both the executive council and general council will take a view.

“We can only control what we can control and that is out on the field, where I believe Deon Davids’s team have continued to show an upward curve this season.

“We are a professional organisation that takes pride in what we do and we will remain focused on bringing credit to the Southern Kings and the province of the Eastern Cape.

“Only once a decision has been reached by the SA Rugby general council will we be able to comment on the future.”

Insiders say the Cheetahs and the Kings are not unhappy about possibly playing in the Pro12 or 14 because they will earn better money from broadcast rights (paid in pounds) and also have less travel and probably a better chance of success.

There is also talk that Europe has become such an attractive proposition that a third SA franchise has indicated that it would be happy to abandon Sanzaar in favour of the Pro12 as well.

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