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Kings 'boxing clever' with SARU

Mon, 16 Jul 2012 15:05
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We don't know what the formula or structure is going to be going forward
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Eastern Province Rugby Union President Cheeky Watson has admitted that dealing with SARU is a tricky business.

The Port Elizabeth-based franchise have been at the centre of a rather perplexing riddle this year as SARU deliberate over how to fit six teams into the five spots in the South African Super Rugby conference next year.

The situation has been made even more complicated for Watson by the fact that he is seeking SARU's co-operation on a few other fronts, which means that he has had to "box clever" and be careful not to burn any bridges with the national union.

The latest rumour doing the rounds is that the Kings were offered R40-million by SARU to postpone their inclusion in Super Rugby next year.

Watson vehemently denied that the Kings have been offered any sum of money to do any such thing, but could do little to clarify the uncertainty surrounding the situation.

The issue stems from the fact that SARU have made two seemingly contradictory promises.

The offical line is that the Kings will play Super Rugby next year, but not at the expense of any other South African team.

Watson admitted in an interview with Algoa FM on Monday that the ambiguity of this statement has been the source of much frustration and added that he has no idea how the impasse can be resolved.

He said: "We have always found the statement rather ambigous and not giving any direction. There are all sorts of things that have been thrown at us to explain why the statement was as it is.

"We don't know what the formula or structure is going to be going forward. It is a problem that doesn't seem to be running away, the mountain just gets a little higher and the challenges more difficult.

"The only thing we are 100 percent certain of is that a full general council meeeting voted for the Kings' inclusion in 2013, more than that we don't know," added Watson.

The most likely options at this stage would seem to be either relegating the Lions, who finished as the bottom team in this year's competition, or some sort of merger, which would both represent compromises that none of the franchises are willing to make.

Watson said that the constant delays over making a decision that was originally meant to be finalised on July 13 is hurting both the Kings and the Lions.

"Not only are the Kings being affected adversely, the Lions are also being affected, but more so the Kings.

"The Lions are in the system and they have players who are playing Super Rugby at the moment and it would seem that they are going to maintain the contracts with the players but it makes life difficult for us to get sponsors and sign players," he said.

Watson said that the delay and uncertainty over the decision has already started affecting the Kings' planning for next season.

"It is really up in the air, we have been trying to push for a timeframe because we have had five or six international players on a string negotiating, but every now and again stories like this come out and negotiations fall flat.

"It has affected us dramatically and we are just waiting for a date. I understand that it is a dilemma for South African rugby because you want the Kings through to address the whole issue of transformation and being the heart and soul of black rugby in the country.

"You also have the dilemma of a Lions rugby union which has a rich history falling out of the system and disappearing altogether,"" he said.

The Kings boss explained that he cannot afford to get too aggressive with SARU over the matter as they are engaged in negotiations over bringing Test match rugby to Port Elizabeth next year.

"We just have to push on regardless because we are also trying to secure a Wallaby Test for next year so you can't throw your toys out the cot.

"We are fighting for Tests and we have the Sevens at the end of the year so it is a bit of a balancing act to ensure that top class rugby comes to the Eastern Cape and you have to box smartly and not upset anybody," he explained.

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