Kings' franchise status under the spotlight
SPOTLIGHT: Director of Performance Robbie Kempson has admitted that Southern Kings’s fate is solely in the hands of the South African Rugby Union.
Kempson’s admission comes two weeks after SA Rugby decided to withdraw the Nelson Mandela Bay outfit from all domestic competitions, citing financial reasons.
The shocking move has cast doubt on the cash-strapped Southern Kings’ franchise status, should it be able to meet its target of a February 2021 Currie Cup return.
There have been speculations that the Kings will relinquish their franchise status in order the focus on building a more competitive Eastern Province Kings/Elephants outfit to participate on the domestic front.
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Speaking during a virtual media briefing, Kempson himself was seemingly in the dark with regards to their future within the South African Rugby landscape.
“At this present moment we are still the Southern Kings and there hasn’t been any indication that will change,”
“We have to wait and see what the competition structures will be like going forward and what happens to the Southern Kings as a potential franchise, so there is not much we can do until that is sorted out, unfortunately.
“It is certainly a difficult one because I think all of our contracts are within that franchise bracket, I don’t think any player or staff would like to move to another re-negotiation process,”
Beyond salaries, Kempson paints an even bigger picture that illustrates the potential significance of this status.
However, he also added that the status does not necessarily have to be seen as the “be all and end all” of the union
“People do need rugby in the Eastern Cape and we do need a strong side. But, people tend to forget we’ve got a young squad and a three-year building phase with just one year behind us and year two was looking really exciting in terms of young talent coming through,”
“So whether it’s a franchise or the EP Kings it’s a rather moot point, as long as contractual obligations are honoured, these guys [players] just want to play rugby, and have an opportunity to showcase themselves against their peers,” he said.
In addition to their franchise status, the Kings’ spot in the Pro14 is also under threat.
As lingering doubts surround the future of South Africa in SANZAAR’s Super Rugby, talk of the Super Rugby franchises joining the European competition has intensified.
It appears that the Super Rugby franchises – Bulls, Stormers, Lions and Sharks – could get preference to join an expanded PRO16 tournament.
The scenario will mean that the Kings and Cheetahs would no longer be guaranteed spots, but would rather have to earn them through reaching the playoffs of the domestic competition – a format favoured by Kempson
“Absolutely! I am one hundred percent behind that!”
“I think as soon as you have an eight-team Currie Cup competition, I wouldn’t include the other unions from the Currie Cup second division, I mean it’s pointless because you just going to get your top players liable to injury, so I think that’s the best way forward.
Kempson explained: “Eight teams, double round, all the Springboks involved, top four teams into that competition [PRO16]. Then whatever happens there those teams would have the right to be there – It would give a lot more impetus to the domestic competition.
He added: “I think there is no other fair way to do it, and it would be like how we did it in the old days. What it would also do is have our players consistently playing at a high level which is going to help the Springboks with just the mere fact of what’s at stake every single, given weekend,”
By Yolulwe Qoshe