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Guma: From Lions' den to Kings' throne

Fri, 18 May 2012 21:17
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Guma: 'We are committed to supporting the Kings rugby franchise.'
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A former equity partner of the Golden Lions Rugby Union, the Guma Tac Group, is close to signing a deal with the Southern Kings.

Guma Tac, jointly owned by Robert Gumede and Ivor Ichikowitz, confirmed on Friday it had been in discussions with the Kings, who are likely to replace the Lions in next year's Super Rugby competition, for a number of months.

"We are committed to supporting the Kings rugby franchise, provided SARU places them in a position where they are able to compete in Super Rugby and it is not simply a one-year token participation," Ichikowitz said in a statement.

"It is our belief that the Kings have waited long enough and are more than deserving to be given the opportunity to participate in Super Rugby."

The Kings lost to Boland in the final of last year's Currie Cup First Division and failed to reach the playoffs in this season's Vodacom Cup competition.

Guma Tac said it hoped to initiate a high performance structure at the Kings which focussed on developing local talent from villages and townships in the Eastern Cape.

"There are substantial amounts of players participating in Super Rugby that come from the Eastern Cape," Gumede said.

"It is a shame that they have been forced to ply their trade elsewhere.

"This team needs the opportunity to demonstrate their potential.

"We intend to provide this for them."

With SARU having confirmed the Kings' participation in next year's Super Rugby competition, the Lions, lying bottom of the SA conference in the current campaign, look set to face the drop.

SARU has yet to make a decision on next year's structure for the SA conference, with Super Rugby organisers SANZAR having made it clear there is no place for a sixth SA franchise in the 15-team competition.

Guma Tac said a possible investment in the Kings would depend on a guarantee from SARU that the team's participation in the southern hemisphere franchise competition would be extended beyond one season.

With SARU set to make a final decision in July regarding future participation, and with reports suggesting that a possible relegation/promotion system is on the cards, Guma Tac said it was not yet ready to ensure its commitment to the Kings.

"The delay to finalise 2013 and the pending Kings inclusion is creating frustration and putting the Kings in a situation where they may not have enough time to secure quality players and sponsors," Gumede said.

"The value of an investment is in the quality of players attracted to the team.

"One cannot build an elite performance team with contract players entering retirement.

"As equity partners, we hope to attract players who are playing on merit for other franchises to come back to their home team and are committed to supplementing them with South African and international marquee players.

"To achieve this, we would need to be able to offer long term contracts.

"We urge SARU to be decisive on this matter so that we can make a long term commitment.

"The Kings matter has been postponed from 2005 to date.

"Let's stop playing with careers. We all need the clarity."

Guma Tac said it would only invest in the Kings if SARU could guarantee Super Rugby participation until 2015, after which SANZAR is expected to re-reconsider its current 15-team model.

"Anything short of this will be to the benefit of no one," Gumede said.

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