Rugby: Super taste proves bittersweet for Kings boss

Southern Kings boss Cheeky Watson. Photo / Supplied
Southern Kings boss Cheeky Watson. Photo / Supplied

If the Lions were unhappy, the Southern Kings weren't totally overjoyed about replacing them in Super Rugby next year - with franchise boss Cheeky Watson lamenting the decision to give the Kings only a one-year term.

Watson also said the Kings will pursue the Lions' best players ahead of their Super Rugby entry next season. The Lions - last in this year's competition - were relegated. While relieved the Eastern Cape had finally got its own Super Rugby franchise, Watson said that the decision by the South African Rugby Union was "like swallowing a sugar-coated pill".

"It's such a late decision and it places us under enormous pressure to be ready in 2013," said Watson. "Also it's ludicrous to give us a one-year term ... it causes instability."

SARU decided to hold a promotion-relegation match involving the worst-placed team, home and away, to determine which five teams play in the competition in 2014. Should the Kings finish last of the local teams, they will play the Lions over two matches to determine who progresses to 2014.

Watson said: "It's not only about the Kings. What happens if the Bulls suffer a spate of injuries and lose players next year and are relegated? That's not right. This decision makes no business sense and it's not good for rugby."

Have the Kings been set up to fail? "That decision [to include them] was taken last year, and was always there," said SARU CEO Jurie Roux. "Being annoyed about being allowed into Super Rugby for a year - if you want to play at the highest level, you've got to prove yourself at the highest level.

"We are certainly not setting them up to fail. It is in South African rugby's best interests that the Kings succeed. Ultimately, it's an area that produces future black stars."

"That's what we want in South African rugby - black stars of the future," said SARU president Oregan Hoskins. "But they're not going to be expected to deliver more than what we expect of the other franchises. 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."

Watson said his franchise would be ready next February. "We'll deal with the hand that's been presented to us. There's no turning back now."

- Herald on Sunday

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