It has been hostile in the past and now their defence is that we haven't contacted them
The Southern Kings have sent a formal request to the Lions to speak to their players about joining the Eastern Cape franchise next year.
This revelation was made by Cheeky Watson, Chairman of the Southern Kings, after he confirmed that three players - two internationals - have signed on to play for the Kings in next year’s Super Rugby campaign.
Springbok hooker Bandise Maku, who returns 'home' to the Eastern Cape, Argentinean scrumhalf Nicolas Vergallo and Blues utility back Hadleigh Parkes were unveiled as the latest batch of big-name signings.
Watson, speaking exclusively to this website after the announcement, revealed that they had not asked the Lions for permission to speak to Maku as he was a 'free agent' and they did not need permission.
However, he revealed that they had sent a "formal request" to the Lions on Wednesday to speak to other players in their camp.
This follows after the Kings last week said the Lions would not release any players to the Port Elizabeth-based franchise.
"It has been very clear, it has been in the media and also through the [player] agents, that the message from the Lions is that they will release no players to the Kings," Watson told this website.
"I told the [Kings] CEO [Anele Pamba] to send a mail to the Lions and see what they say," the Kings boss said, adding that the mail went off on Wednesday.
"It has been hostile in the past and now their [the Lions'] defence is that we haven't contacted them.
"Now they will receive a mail, so let's see what they say," Watson added.
The Kings boss said the signing of the 26-year-old Maku - who was born in King William's Town and schooled at Dale College - means the union are getting one of their own back.
"Fantastic," was Watson's reaction to the signing of the one-time Bok hooker, adding: "He will bring experience ... he has played at the highest [international] level.
"He is coming back home, which is also important for us ... it is one of my goals.
"I think his game will improve dramatically being back home - with the home support base he will deliver great rugby next year."
Asked about the two foreigners - the 29-times capped Puma, Vergallo, and Parkes, who played for the Blues and captained Auckland in the NPC - Watson said they will add much needed experience and depth.
"I said from the outset that we will make every endeavour possible to sign local players," Watson told this website.
"[However,] if the well dries up and we can't sign local players then we have to go for internationals ... foreigners."
Asked if they were going to sign more players in the weeks to come, Watson said the next batch of names are likely to be released next Wednesday.
"We are looking at about another eight, both local and international."
He added that they have asked SARU for permission to sign six foreign players.
"I don't think we will get anywhere near six ... it will be more than two though," the Kings boss said.
By Jan de Koning