Kings look on the bright side after Super axe
REACTION: The Southern Kings are excited about the opportunities which can potentially unlock new commercial markets following a strategic SANZAAR decision to revamp the Super Rugby competition.
After three seasons of participation in the competition (2013, 2016 and 2017), the Southern Kings will play their final Super Rugby match when they take on the Cheetahs at home at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on July 14, in what will be the final round of matches before the competition's participating teams are reduced from 18 to 15 teams from next season.
The Kings and the Cheetahs have been linked with a move to the Northern Hemisphere's Pro12 competition, which features teams from Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy.
"Great memories were created for the people of the Eastern Cape and many careers were launched by the Southern Kings' participation in the Super Rugby competition," Southern Kings Chief Operations Officer Charl Crous said.
"Since our first season in the competition in 2013 we made our mark by having record crowd attendance figures at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and throughout our involvement managed to gain a number of supporters not only from the Eastern Cape, but all over South Africa and abroad too.
"We are grateful for the support we have received over the years – which has been a massive influence in ensuring the good performances the Southern Kings have displayed in the competition this season."
The Southern Kings are exploring some exciting new opportunities which will open up new commercial markets in another international competition of equal high standard as the Super Rugby competition.
Crous expressed his excitement at opening up new opportunities for the Eastern Cape while expanding the fan base of the Southern Kings, as well as giving more exposure to the player talent in the province.
"We will, at a later stage, announce the new direction in which the Southern Kings are headed," Crous confirmed.
"We have been working tirelessly to ensure that top-class, international rugby remains in the Eastern Cape and that the Southern Kings continue to produce new heroes while opening up new markets and opportunities for the franchise, local players and the province as a whole.
"Our exit from the Super Rugby competition does not signify doom, but rather the dawn of a new, promising and exciting era for Eastern Cape rugby. Furthermore, the traditional rugby landscape is set to change in future, particularly with the global rugby calendar being aligned. We are on the verge of being one of the first to be involved in such positive changes."
EPRU President Andre Rademan highlighted the importance of keeping top-class rugby in the region that is renowned to produce quality players.
"This is an exciting time for rugby in our region as well as South Africa in general," Rademan said.
"The dawn of this new era for the Southern Kings is further amplified by the fact that the Eastern Province Rugby Union is also in a new phase following the election of a new executive committee earlier in the year.
"This is an opportunity for all stakeholders who have the best interests of Eastern Cape rugby at heart to come together and continue to work towards continued development of the game in the province.
"We have no doubt that the road that we are about to embark on will be one of success and one that will change the landscape of rugby in the country.
"We are grateful to the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium – our home over the past few years – and the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Municipality, who are key stakeholders in the franchise, for the role they have played during our tenure in the Super Rugby competition. We look forward to, once again, walk hand-in-hand with the NMB Stadium and NMB Metro as we enter this new chapter. We will continue to host quality, international rugby matches in Nelson Mandela Bay."
The new Super Rugby structure will comprise four teams from South Africa, five from New Zealand, four from Australia and one each from Argentina and Japan, with the Bulls, Lions, Stormers and Sharks South Africa's competitors.
Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby, said that Friday's General Meeting still had the constitutional responsibility to confirm SA's entrants in the competition.
"I want to thank the Cheetahs and the Kings for the mature and professional manner in which they approached and managed this difficult situation. They took decisions that will not only benefit them, but also SA Rugby in general," said Roux.
Announcements relating to new international competitive opportunities for the two teams will be made in due course.