JOHANNESBURG – Lions president Kevin de Klerk says his team needs to regain promotion to Super Rugby for both the players in the union and their supporters.
The Lions were replaced by the EP Kings for this year’s competition, but are favourites to return next season after beating the Port Elizabeth side 26-19 in the thrilling encounter in the first leg of the promotion-relegation match last week.
In order for the Kings to stay up, they have to win Saturday’s second clash at Ellis Park by at least eight points or with a four-try bonus point.
“The spectators want the premium competition, that’s what will be needed to stand this business, to keep the people coming to watch.”
De Klerk says good performance and quality display on the pitch will help attract partners and sponsors to the game.
He says a win is vital for the players who have stuck by the union during the hard times.
“They need to play in the senior competition. Could we ultimately hold them responsible if we lose or we part ways? I’d say no. Hence the drive is to win and retain them.”
De Klerk urged rugby fans attending the game at Ellis Park this weekend not to retaliate following the alleged poor treatment of the Lions in Port Elizabeth last week.
The Lions were apparently jeered by Kings fans in the first leg of their Promotion-Relegation match.
PLANNING AHEAD: 2016 SUPER RUGBY
Eastern Province Rugby Union President Cheeky Watson is confident South Africa, New Zealand and Australia Rugby (SANZAR) will expand the existing Super Rugby competition to at least 16 teams in 2016.
Meaning the Kings and the Lions could both be playing in the competition.
If the Lions win, the Kings will drop out of competition next year.
Watson says the Kings will then be back in 2016.
“We are guaranteed an entry where Lions and Kings are concerned in 2016. It ventures back to the drawing board for building and putting proper structures in place for 2016.”
Watson says if they are relegated they’ll begin planning for their comeback in 2016.
He says it is imperative that the team builds a strong development side for future quality performance and consistency.
“You have to ensure that you retain your academy players, build your academy, and retain a couple of senior players, all for 2016.”
However, SANZAR has not confirmed any expansion of the existing competition.
(Edited by Leeto M. Khoza)