Rugby bosses are set to stick to their original decision that the Super Rugby franchise that finishes last in the SA Conference this season will be relegated to make way for the Southern Kings in next year’s competition.
The bottom-of-the-log Lions are the team most in danger of losing their Super Rugby status following a second special meeting of the SA Rugby Union (Saru) and franchise representatives in Joburg on Monday.
Saru had promised the Eastern Cape-based Kings direct entry into Super Rugby next season, but never considered the mechanisms of getting six teams to play in a five-team conference.
The return of the now-defunct franchise the Cats – an amalgamation of the Lions and Cheetahs – is understood to be off the table.
While a merger of sorts between two teams – either between the Lions and the Cheetahs, the Lions and the Kings or the Lions and the Bulls – was reportedly discussed at last week’s meeting, it was not among the options presented to the parties yesterday.
A source close to the developments said last night: “The Cats are dead… simple as that.”
Among the reasons a merger was not be considered was:
* While it was easy to accommodate players of two different regions, it was not so easy for administrators.
* Deciding on a coaching team that had an understanding with all the players was virtually unachievable.
* Choosing a home ground would almost always be a contentious issue.
Kings president Cheeky Watson said last night: “There’s not going to be any backtracking on the Kings now… we’re still looking good for Super Rugby next year.”
But that decision could be overturned if Saru’s general council feel they cannot afford to relegate the team that finishes last this year.
The options for next year, decided on by Saru and the franchises yesterday, will now be handed over to the executive committee of Saru for consideration, which in turn will give it to the general council for a final decision. The general council, which includes Saru president Oregan Hoskins, meets on July 13.
“The proposal will be that the last-placed team must be demoted, as was decided some time ago. History will not be a factor in the decision. But, of course, the GC does not necessarily have to go with this proposal … and then we’re back to square one,” said a source.
Losing Super Rugby status would mean the loss of millions of rands in revenue. - Cape Argus