Port Elizabeth – The Eastern Province Kings will be playing in the Currie Cup Premier Division this year after the proposal to expand the Premier Division from six to eight teams was passed during a Special General Meeting in Johannesburg today.
A round robin competition between the remaining seven unions in the Currie Cup First Division will take place after the Vodacom Cup, to determine the eighth team that will join them in the Premier Division.
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 two thirds majority vote, despite securing 19 of the 29 votes in favour of the move.
Subsequently the Pumas secured promotion to premier division, by defeating the bottom placed Griquas in the promotion / relegation playoffs. SA Rugby was then requested to reconsider the proposal to expand the Currie Cup, the results of which were concluded today.
â€œThis 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,â€? said EP Rugby CEO, Charl Crous.
â€œWe are glad to say that the outcome of the vote today clearly shows that the unions have the best interests of South African Rugby at heart,â€? he said.
â€œWe 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,â€? Crous said.
Crous said by having the EP Kings take part in the Currie Cup premier division, 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 against the EP Kings.
â€œI would also like to thank everyone within the EP Rugby 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.â€?
Crous said that this decision would also create stability within South Africa Rugby structures, as the promotion relegation playoffs between the Kings and the bottom ranked South African Super Rugby Franchise, would now fall away.
EPRU President, Cheeky Watson said the move would further strengthen the development taking place within Eastern Province Rugby and would provide the platform for young, talented players from the region to test their skills against the countryâ€™s best players.
â€œWe 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,â€? he said.
Watson said EP Rugby 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.
â€œThe fact is that Eastern Province Rugby Union has the potential to truly transform the entire South African rugby landscape, through developing our local talent, providing them with the platforms to showcase their talent, and reach their full potential.â€?
â€œWe 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 flight rugby over the next few years,â€? said Watson
Watson said that, through this approach, when the Kings once again took up their rightful place in Super Rugby in 2016, the team would be able to showcase the talent that has come from the region.