HOPES that the EP Kings will be slugging it out with the big boys in the top flight Currie Cup Premier Division this year are hanging on a knife edge ahead of a crucial meeting in Cape Town on Thursday.
There has been frantic behind-the-scenes canvassing by anxious Kings officials ahead of a SA Rugby council meeting to vote on whether to include the EP Kings in an enlarged eight-team Premier Division.
“We are confident that the vote will go through, just as we were with Super Rugby and the Sevens coming to Nelson Mandela Bay,” Kings boss Cheeky Watson said.
“The new plan to allow other lower-tier teams to have a crack at promotion has altered the dynamics in South African rugby.”
After two previous meetings failed to reach a decision and a third was postponed, the Kings officials will be hoping it is a case of “fourth time lucky” in Cape Town. It is believed that the unions who remain opposed to the Kings being granted promotion to the top flight are Border, South Western Districts, Boland and the Griffons.
In a bid to win them over, Kings officials have been working flat out behind the scenes.
The Kings currently campaign in the lower tier Currie Cup First Division and are seeking elevation to the top flight so they can prepare for re-entry into Super Rugby in 2016.
Watson and CE Charl Crous are confident that this time the region will get the green light to play in the “big time”.
The 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 off 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 signed former 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 later this year.
While some unions were originally against the Kings being promoted, a new plan might have won over the majority of unions.
The new proposal will 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.
Because the Kings would gain automatic promotion in the new proposal, they would then forfeit their right to play a Super Rugby promotion match against the team finishing bottom of the South African conference next season.
Griquas, Falcons, Border, Boland, Griffons, Leopards and SWD Eagles would play a series of promotion games after the Vodacom Cup.
© BDlive 2014