THE South African Rugby Union (SARU) has thrown the cash-strapped Eastern Province Rugby Union a lifeline.

Saru yesterday announced that they will be taking control of the Southern Kings franchise in the expanded Super Rugby competition in 2016.

The decision, which was made by the Executive Council of Saru, was taken because of the ongoing cash flow problems at the union, and after the president of EP, Cheeky Watson, asked Saru president Oregan Hoskins for assistance.

Watson is currently overseas trying to secure sponsorship for the Kings.

“We gave the Kings as long as possible to resolve their issues through their own efforts, but the point had been reached where they could wait no longer,” Hoskins said in a statement.

“It is a decision we have had to take reluctantly, but it is now 102 days until Super Rugby moves into a new era with new teams and new nations taking part, and we collectively agreed we could not allow South Africa’s new entrant to be under-prepared.”

Saru chief executive Jurie Roux said that the organisation has already made contingency plans, which would now be put into operation to prepare the team for Super Rugby.

“We have already had conversations around off-field and on-field preparations but I don’t want to mislead anyone, there is still much to do,” said Roux.

“For the moment we will be working behind the scenes to sort out the various issues that we need to address. I hope that we will be able to reveal the new management processes of the Kings and other details in a week or two.

“For the moment, our focus is on sorting out the finances and identifying the playing and coaching needs for Super Rugby participation.”

The Southern Kings kick off their Super Rugby campaign with a home match against the Sharks at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on February 27.