Kings desperate to avoid relegation

2013-07-18 00:00

JOHANNESBURG — After a few weeks of confusion where a few other options, including a temporary merger, were being considered, it looks as if the Super Rugby promotion/relegation series between the Kings and the Lions is to go ahead, according to the website.

And the Kings administration wasted no time urging their fans — who have turned out in droves this season as the big rugby drought has been broken for starved supporters — to wear black when the home game is played at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium next Friday (July 26, 7.10 pm). The match will be played on a double-header platform, with the EP Kings playing the Boland Cavaliers in an important Currie Cup First Division game in the curtain-raiser.

Both matches are of critical importance to rugby in the Eastern Cape as the EP Kings are eager to make it into the premier division of the Currie Cup. This would ensure a steady diet of top rugby for the people of Port Elizabeth and surrounds, and also help the franchise’s readiness for the following year’s Super Rugby, should they still be in it.

The Kings had a disappointing end to their debut Super Rugby season when they were hammered 58-13 by the Sharks last week, and director of rugby Alan Solomons was understandably disappointed with how it ended.

However, it seems everything at the Kings is being geared towards defending their Super Rugby status against a Lions team that will be understandably hungry to force their way back into the Sanzar competition.

In terms of what can be expected in what now shapes as their most important home game of the season, the competitive display put up against the Stormers, who outplayed the Bulls this past weekend, is probably a better indication of their ability.

“We are aware that it’s do or die and our players are doing everything they can to prepare themselves for what is going to be a titanic clash. But we cannot do this alone,” said acting Kings CEO Charl Crous.

“We need the people of the region to once again come out in their numbers and show their support, to stand up and be counted.”

Crous called on fans to wear black as a show of support for their team.

The massive support the Kings have enjoyed this season has on its own justified the franchise’s continued participation in Super Rugby, but there are only 15 places available at the top table at present and the Lions, representing the economic heartland of South Africa, also have sound arguments for their need to re-enter a competition they struggled in before being shown the exit last year.

While it could be argued that the Kings haven’t done any better than the Lions this season — they finished last although they did surprise by beating teams from New Zealand and Australia along the way, and also won in Australasia on their very first tour there — it needs to be remembered that this was their first year of existence.

The Lions are a long-established franchise, so there is less excuse for them to be struggling. Their coach Johan Ackermann will be aware of that, and will be hoping that returning players who have been on loan to Super Rugby franchises, such as the Stormers’ Elton Jantjies, will fit back quickly into his team’s systems.

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