We have structures in place to develop players
The decision to entrench the Eastern Province Kings in the Currie Cup for the next two years will aid "development" in the region.
This is the view of EP Rugby Union President Cheeky Watson, following the announcement by the South African Rugby Union on Thursday that the country's premier domestic competition will be expanded to an eight-team tournament.
The decision to entrench the EP Kings in the Currie Cup was passed during a special general meeting of SARU in Johannesburg.
The new structure will ensure that the six 'anchor' unions - the Blue Bulls, Sharks, Western Province, Free State Cheetahs, Golden Lions and EP Kings - will be guaranteed their places in the Currie Cup for the next two seasons. The Pumas, who qualified for top flight by beating Griquas in a two-match promotion-relegation series last year will play in 2014, but could be involved in the qualifying process in 2015.
A qualifying competition between the remaining seven unions in the First Division - Griqualand West, Leopards, SWD Eagles, Boland Cavaliers, Griffons, Border Bulldogs and the Falcons - will take place to determine who the eighth team will be in 2014.
The meeting also approved a resolution to do away with the Super Rugby promotion and relegation mechanism. The effect will be that the current five franchises are entrenched for the 2015 season.
This follows after the initial proposal to promote both the EP Kings and Pumas to an expanded premier division in September last year, failed to achieve a 75 percent majority vote, despite securing 19 of the 29 votes in favour of the move.
"This is great news for the region as it will help us to maintain the momentum that was created through the Southern Kings Super Rugby participation last year," EPRU CEO Charl Crous said.
"We are glad to say that the outcome of the vote clearly shows that the unions have the best interests of South African rugby at heart," he added.
"We have said previously that there is a hunger for top flight rugby in the Eastern Cape and the amazing crowds that attended the Super Rugby games at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium last year have shown that this is the case."
Crous said by having the EP Kings take part in the Currie Cup competition the people of the Eastern Cape would once again have the opportunity to come and watch teams such as the Blue Bulls, the Sharks, Western Province, the Cheetahs, Pumas and Lions play in Port Elizabeth.
"I would also like to thank everyone within the EP structures, from the clubs through to the executive members for their support and hard work behind the scenes to ensure that we are ready for this next step as we prepare to re-enter Super Rugby in 2016."
Crous said that this decision would also create stability within South African structures, as the promotion-relegation play-offs between the Kings and the bottom ranked South African Super Rugby franchise would now fall away.
The EPRU President, Watson, said the move would further strengthen the development taking place within the region and would provide the platform for young, talented players from the region to test their skills against the country's best players.
"We have always maintained that there is a clear plan in place for the region, despite the Southern Kings relegation at the end of the Super Rugby season last year," he said.
Watson added that the EPRU had already provided opportunities for young local talent developed through the Kings Academy, creating local role models such as Sergeal Petersen, Siviwe Soyizwapi and Aidon Davis.
"The fact is that EPRU has the potential to truly transform the entire South African landscape, through developing our local talent, providing them with the platforms to showcase their talent, and reach their full potential," said Watson.
"We have the structures in place to develop these players to be the best professional athletes they can be, and we have the opportunities to provide these individuals with exposure to top the flight of the game over the next few years.
Watson added that, through this approach, when the Southern Kings once again take up their place in Super Rugby in 2016, the team would be able to showcase the talent that has come from the region.