Southern Kings in Super Rugby is highly unlikely

The Southern Kings inclusion in Super Rugby from 2013 appears less likely to go ahead ironically the change comes after the team finally enjoyed some success.

The Kings won the IRB Nations cup tournament earlier this month when they beat a Portugal side 39-12 at the Arcul de Triumf Stadium in Bucharest and remained unbeaten in the tournament.

The Southern Kings were playing as the South African Kings as part of SA Rugby’s commitment to get them playing first class rugby.

The Kings were formed as a sixth South African Super Rugby team for the expansion of the Super 14 to a Super 15 but the history goes back even further.

The first appearance of a “Southern” Super Rugby team was in 2005 when the Southern Spears were founded with the intention of playing in the Super 14 from 2007 onwards.

The Southern Spears under the guidance of Tony McKeever appointed Springbok coach Peter de Villers and were initially guaranteed entry into the 2007 Super 14.

However SARugby changed direction and the Spears gradually fizzled out despite McKeever putting up a tremendous fight for their survival.

When talk of Super Rugby’s expansion from a Super 14 to a Super 15 format started the “Southern” Super Rugby team from the Eastern Cape was reborn in the guise of the Southern Kings who went on to play the British and Irish Lions in June 2009.

The Eastern Cape was again left frustrated in 2009 when it was decided that the Melbourne Rebels and not the Southern Kings would be the 15th Super Rugby team but the Kings were assured entry into Super Rugby by SA Rugby from 2013.

However it now seems that the Kings entry into Super Rugby has come up against brick wall as strong as the Stormers defensive line.

SARU had hoped that they could convince SANZAR to increase Super Rugby to a 16 team format and there has even been talk of the South African conference starting two weeks earlier than their rival conferences.

Former Stormers captain Luke Watson has returned to South Africa from Bath with the intention of playing for the Kings in the 2013 Super Rugby tournament.

SANZAR (of which SARugby is a partner) have however sold the rights for the 15 team Super Rugby format for the next five years which makes including a team from anywhere else highly unlikely.

SANZAR CEO Greg Peters says that they are conscious of South Africa wanting another team but does not know how this can be done.

“We are aware that it (the Kings’ participation) is topical in South Africa, but have not had any formal proposal about how they can be accommodated,” Peters told Sport24.

“The current conference format was sold to broadcasters for a period of 5 years,” Peters added.

There has also been talk of Super Rugby’s expansion into territories such as Japan, the United States or Pacific Islands but it seems that this is some way off SANZAR’s agenda.

“It’s a topic that SANZAR will consider at some stage, but our vision is to run the best competitions and commercially strongest competitions in world rugby,” said Peters.

“The idea is to enhance rugby in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. “

“We’re in the first year of a new conference format and need to do that well before we look to the future.”

A Super 16 with the Southern Kings included now appears to be highly unlikely which puts South Africa’s five current Super Rugby teams under pressure as SARugby have made a commitment to the Kings.

If the Kings insist on a place in the competition from 2013 the only solution would appear to be for the Cheetahs and Lions to join forces as the Cats again.

Alternatively the lowest ranked South African Super Rugby team could lose their Super Rugby status in a promotion-relegation match.

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