Lions bear no grudges
The Cheetahs may have betrayed the Lions, but the latter will hold no grudges as the two franchises look to put the past behind them.
Golden Lions Rugby Union President Kevin de Klerk told this website in an exclusive interview that he is willing to "move on" in the interest of the game.
This follows the announcement that the Free State and Golden Lions Rugby Unions have "forged" new ties and agreed on mutual co-operation, even though there is no chance of the revival of the Cats franchise in the near future.
Following the acrimony in the wake of the Lions' axing from Super Rugby last year – when the Cheetahs were one of the teams who turned their backs on the Lions and allowed the Kings to replace the Gauteng outfit – the two unions have now 'kissed and made up'.
Lindsay Mould, President of the Free State Rugby Union, Harold Verster, Managing Director of the Free State Cheetahs (Pty) Limited and Kevin de Klerk, President of the GLRU met in Johannesburg last week.
"I have the utmost respect for Lindsay [Mould]," De Klerk told this website, adding that the Cheetahs requested the 'make-up' meeting.
"That [the Cheetahs' betrayal of the Lions] is now in the past," the GLRU boss said.
"I am not the kind of person that bears grudges," De Klerk said, adding: "We want to move forward in a positive manner.
"Rugby is bigger than all of us."
He added that the Cheetahs must live with the decisions they made last year, when (along with the Stormers) the Cheetahs broke their promise to stand by the Lions.
This betrayal allowed the Kings to replace the Lions as the fifth team in the South African Super Rugby conference.
At last Friday's meeting the Lions and Cheetahs bosses put their differences behind them and discussed the unhappiness which resulted from the Cheetahs' stance in the Kings saga last year, the uncertainties the existed and future co-operation between the two entities.
The discussion took place in a very "frank and pleasant manner", according to a media release issued by the Cheetahs.
"It was like two old rugby friends who could talk to each other about uncertainties and the way forward," the Cheetahs' statement said.
Mould and Verster presented De Klerk with the situation set about in recent events and said that they still support the Lions "as agreed initially".
According to the statement De Klerk accepted the Cheetah's point of view "unconditionally" and undertook to visit Bloemfontein soon to show his goodwill towards this province.
The uneasiness of the former regional team, the Cats, was also discussed in depth.
It refers to a time when this association was the detriment of the Free State and it was now realized that this system of merger between the Lions and Cheetahs – as the Cats – was not practical and that the two unions will support and assist each other better in other ways on the road ahead.
The Cheetahs will take on the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday weekend.
By Jan de Koning