EASTERN Province rugby boss Cheeky Watson remains upbeat about the Kings’ prospects of being promoted into an enlarged eight-team Currie Cup Premier Division despite renewed opposition from rival unions determined to block his team’s progress to the top flight.
The South African Rugby Union (Saru) announced on Tuesday that a meeting scheduled for Friday to discuss the Kings’ promotion had been postponed for a third time — until February 13 — because the proposal was unlikely to achieve the required two-thirds majority.
The Kings have already agreed that if they are promoted they will forfeit the right to play a promotion match against the team finishing bottom of the South African Super Rugby conference.
“I do not think this is bad news at all. In fact I think it is good news,” Watson said of the delay.
Asked if he was feeling despondent, he said: “Not at all. This delay will enable us to work flat out to canvass support among the unions ahead of the meeting.
“I have just received the e-mail from Saru and I have not spoken to anyone. But there are lots of different scenarios that have been put on the table. So now we have to revisit the matter on the 13th.”
It is believed that the unions opposed to the Kings moving to the top flight are Border, South Western Districts, Boland and the Griffons.
At a meeting on Tuesday to announce the Kings team to play the Lions at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday, Kings caretaker head coach Robbi Kempson said the decision on whether to promote his team was a “no-brainer”.
“This is a rugby decision and hopefully the executive members who are voting on that realise that politics are secondary,” said the former Springbok prop.
The eventual decision will have far-reaching implications for the Kings and will offer their brightest young stars such as Siviwe “Shakes” Soyizwapi, Sergeal Petersen and Aidon Davis the chance to show their talent at the highest level.
Senior players such as captain Luke Watson, Darron Nell, Ronnie Cooke and Steven Sykes will relish the chance to pit themselves against the best players in the country.
The Kings have already signed All Black great Carlos Spencer to take charge of their backline, and there is speculation that former Springbok assistant coach Gary Gold could be heading to Port Elizabeth this year.
The proposal facing rugby chiefs is to give the Kings automatic entry into the Premier Division, while the remaining lower-tier teams will play a series of promotion games to decide which team fills the eighth spot that is up for grabs.
“We are confident that the vote will go through, just as we were with Super Rugby and the Sevens coming to Nelson Mandela Bay,” Watson has said.