Kings victims of circumstance
Kings captain Luke Watson says the franchise was painted into a corner by SARU and left with no other option but to sign foreign players.
Kings captain Luke Watson says the franchise was painted into a corner by the South African Rugby Union (SARU) and left with no other option but to sign foreign players.
The Eastern Cape franchise have come under fire for the acquisitions of foreign players Daniel Adongo, Hadleigh Parkes, Virgil Lacombe, Nicolas Vergallo and Tomas Leonardi after initially stating that their aim was to assist in the transformation of South African rugby and give local black talent greater exposure.
The Kings additionally signed a host of players from other South African sides including Bandise Maku, Andries Strauss, Waylon Murray, Steven Sykes, Demetri Catrakilis and Michael Killian and axed Eastern Province Kings stalwarts Tiger Mangweni and Wayne van Heerden from their Super Rugby squad.
After confirmation from SARU that the Kings will not be allowed more than the regulation two foreign players in their debut Super Rugby season, Watson said that was never the intention.
Watson said that he is in favour of the foreign player policy but added that SARU's handling of the Kings' inclusion in Super Rugby and late confirmation thereof meant the Kings had to look elsewhere to assemble a competitive squad.
"As far as I know SARU have a ruling of two foreign players in a 22 and I think it's fantastic and fair. I don't think at any stage we planned to have more than two foreign players. We have a sufficient amount of depth in South Africa already," Watson told Radio 702's Sports Talk.
"We were told in August that we will be afforded the opportunity to play in Super Rugby. By that stage, every other player in the country had already extended their contract with their current union.
"The Lions players then went on loan and were offered to every single other union except the Southern Kings, so we were stuck in a position where he got to find players as quickly as we can and stuck with a few positions so we had to look abroad," he said.
"We started training in November so we had just over two months to get an entire Super Rugby squad, just over two months to get sponsors, which we still don't have, just over two months to get an entire system together. It's been quite challenging and it's been quite difficult," he added.
Watson went on to lambast the manner in which SARU handled their entry into the competition and said it has led to unfair criticism of the Kings that ought to be directed at the governing body.
"How the Kings thing has been handled is a shamble. It is not constructive to South African rugby and it doesn't bode well for the long term. It could have been done in a far more constructive manner.
"Having said that, the Kings should not be held responsible for the way it's been done and the decisions that have been made on a South African rugby board," said Watson.
The 29-year-old said the Kings are under no illusions how great the challenge will be of having to make the step up from First Division rugby to Super Rugby.
"We have players from numerous franchises that have quite a bit of experience and it's new combinations, so we do have the depth and the player power but Super Rugby is a good shock to the system.
"So we are not going to be presumptuous and have any foregone conclusions but we are ambitious. How far that ambition takes us we will have to see at the end of the competition," he said.