GLRU: Lion Kings not the answer
EXCLUSIVE: The GLRU is in ongoing talks with SARU in order to find a Super Rugby solution, but any talk of a merger is out of the question.
The Golden Lions Rugby Union is in ongoing talks with the South African Rugby Union in order to find a Super Rugby solution, but any talk of a merger is out of the question.
Media reports have suggested that Golden Lions and Southern Kings officials are "locked in negotiations" to field a team called the Lion Kings in Super Rugby from next year.
Golden Lions Rugby Union President Kevin de Klerk and his Southern Kings counterpart Cheeky Watson both told this website that any such suggestion is "pure speculation" and "devoid of the truth".
"There is nothing of the sort, I am not aware of anything," Watson said, when asked about the ongoing rumours that have spread like wildfire since a few uninformed individuals took to social networks like Twitter to 'discuss' the new team.
Watson also dismissed the suggestion that the Kings have been involved in talks - formal or informal - with the Lions about Super Rugby issues.
"I haven't been involved in any [talks]," Watson told this website.
The GLRU boss, De Klerk, in an exclusive interview with this website, admitted that he has been in talks with both SARU and SANZAR, but also dismissed the Lion Kings reports as "nothing more than rumours".
"There is nothing of the sort," De Klerk said, adding: "We have spoken to SARU about certain permutations.
"I have been working very hard to rectify this matter, as I feel it is an absolute debacle.
"I even approached SANZAR and started discussions with SARU about permutations, to see what can work."
De Klerk is adamant that a merger between the Lions and Kings can never work.
"We have been down this road with the Cheetahs [as the Cats] and that also didn't work then, and can't work now."
He admitted that the Lion King rumours may have started because he was negotiating with SARU about certain permutations and certain proposals that were put on the table to try and resolve this debacle.
"However, we will have the play-offs," he said of the two-match promotion-relegation series between the Lions and Kings in Port Elizabeth on July 26 and Johannesburg on August 2.
"The team that gets knocked out, say it is the Kings, they will have to go back to the Vodacom Cup competition," De Klerk told this website.
"If we get knocked we will have an enormous challenge on our hands. We'll basically just be a Currie Cup team and that affects sponsors and everything else."
De Klerk said he is getting tired when people say that the Lions are based in Johannesburg and there is so much money for rugby.
"That is simply not true," the GLRU boss said, adding: "I won't mention amounts, but we had to write off a third of our budget the day they announced that we were knocked out of the Super Rugby competition.
"I [as GLRU President] have to survive in this [rugby] business.
"There was never any proper calculations done on how this would impact on the team that gets knocked out.
"I don't have any insight into how they [the Kings] operate, but I can guarantee you the Kings are really struggling to retain their players and continue to run the business as a Super Rugby entity.
"I know exactly what the pressures and costs are to maintain a Super Rugby team."
As for the talks of a compromise or amalgamation, De Klerk said that is simply not true.
"We are heading to the play-offs to regain our Super Rugby status for ourselves [the GLRU]."
Asked what permutations he discussed with SARU, De Klerk said he can divulge details as that is "too sensitive".
"First prize for me would have been a sixth [South African] team, but SANZAR was simply not interested. We approached SANZAR, as the Lions, to try and find a resolution, but they were simply not interested in us."
While a merger in any form is out of the question, De Klerk said there are ongoing talks about the future of South African teams in Super Rugby.
"To set up something like that [a merger] is not a five-minute process," he told this website.
"How can you see the Lions [Johannesburg] supporters or the PE [Port Elizabeth] supporters ever get together?
"I have had numerous, vigorous discussions with SARU to try and find a solution, without success.
"All that is left now is the promotion-relegation matches.
"We are still talking about the future, to find a better and more workable structure."
By Jan de Koning