The Southern Kings franchise has demanded that the South African Rugby Union (Saru) ensure the franchise takes part in the Super 15 competition in 2011.
In a statement, the franchise rejects the proposal for Super Rugby participation from 2013 by entrenching one of the Southern Kings partners in the Currie Cup or through a series of friendly matches.
“We are not prepared to wait and will do everything in our power to ensure that Super Rugby becomes a reality in the region from no later than 2011,” said Southern Kings CEO, Stephan Pretorius.
The presidents of the three provinces that comprise the Southern Kings — Cheeky Watson of the Eastern Province Rugby Union, Bantu Ondala of the Border Rugby Union and Hennie Baartman of the South Western Districts Rugby Union — met in Port Elizabeth on Sunday to reaffirm their commitment to making Super Rugby participation a reality in the region from 2011.
The meeting discussed a number of issues that remain critical to the Southern Kings’ participation in the Super 15 competition from 2011.
‘We are ready for the Super 15’
“The three partner unions have reiterated that the franchise is ready to participate in the Sanzar Super 15 tournament from 2011,” said Pretorius.
“The meeting expressed concern at the apparent stalling tactics employed by the South African Rugby Union (Saru) since 2005, which seek to delay the franchise’s entry into Super Rugby until the 2013 season,” Pretorius said.
In 2009, the Saru leadership indicated that the Southern Kings would take part in the competition from 2011. As recently as January 2010, Saru changed its position, stating that the Southern Kings could play from 2012.
The latest Saru position is that the Southern Kings must be prepared for participation from 2013.
The franchise claims this is a delaying tactic by Saru in the hope that Super Rugby was expanded to 18 teams in 2013, which would allow for a sixth South African franchise.
The Kings leadership has called the situation “unacceptable and detrimental to rugby in South Africa” as it limits the creation of opportunities for black players and broadening the support base for the game.
When the Kings submitted a bid to Sanzar in September 2009 — to be included in the expanded Super 15 tournament — the franchise proved beyond doubt, and to the satisfaction of Saru and Sanzar that it would be ready to participate from 2011.
The Kings leadership have pointed to the poor performance of some of the existing South African Super Rugby franchises and was adamant that the Southern Kings deserved to be given a similar opportunity to take part in the expanded Super 15 from 2011.
Concerns of the ‘protection of franchises
“The meeting expressed disappointment that the Southern Kings’ readiness to compete in Super Rugby was regularly called into question, yet the poor performance of the Lions and the Cheetahs, in particular, continued to go unquestioned,” said the statement.
“The Southern Kings expressed concern over Saru’s apparent protection of the Lions and Cheetahs franchises — which have consistently performed poorly since the onset of the Super 14 in 2006 and presently occupy the 13th and 14th places in the 2010 Super 14 standings.
“We are not prepared to wait and will do everything in our power to ensure that Super Rugby becomes a reality in the region from no later than 2011,” Pretorius concluded. — Sapa