Kings won't go away
THE South African Rugby Union's general council will meet on August 16 to finalise the five teams that will play Super rugby next year, suggesting that there could be an about-turn on the decision to include the Southern Kings.
Saru would not be drawn on speculation about what could occur at next month's meeting, but a spokesman did concede that if one union proposed to overturn the original Kings decision, and it was seconded by another, then it would go to a vote.
At a January 29 meeting the executive council's 14 members and Saru president Regan Hoskins voted unanimously to include the Kings in the 2013 tournament.
But consensus on a mechanism for accommodating six teams in the five available places in the tournament could not be reached and a final decision was deferred.
Now, nearly six months on, there is still no clarity on how to proceed. Saru initially proposed that the bottom-placed South African team in this year's tournament be relegated to accommodate the Kings.
But the five existing teams rejected that idea, and unsuccessfully attempted to lobby their partners from Australia and New Zealand to allow South Africa to include six teams in 2013.
With the debate having come full circle and the Lions, as the bottom-placed team in 2012 vulnerable to relegation, it appears the Machiavellian workings of the general council could see a re-vote on the Kings issue. And that could mean an about-turn on the original decision.
"This is clearly an important issue of wide interest," said Saru CEO Jurie Roux. "But the decision [on who plays in Super rugby 2013] rests with the general council and until they have made that decision it serves no purpose to become involved in speculation on any scenarios."
But Kings CEO Cheeky Watson remained confident that the general council members would honour their original decision.
"The Kings are in Super rugby in 2013 but now it's a question of whether the Lions drop out or not, and if so, do they have a competition to fall into or will there be an amalgamation between the Lions and another union?
"This delay is putting us under pressure and I know it's also putting the Lions under pressure," Watson said.
Watson also dismissed a weekend report suggesting the Kings had accepted a R40-million payment to sit out of Super rugby for a year.
The disciplinary hearing of Lions coach John Mitchell started yesterday but will take at least two days to conclude.
Mitchell faces allegations of misconduct brought to the attention of the Golden Lions Rugby Union by, among others, the players.