The South African Rugby Union (Saru) today welcomed the inclusion of the Southern Kings team in the 2011 edition of the IRB Nations Cup tournament.
Defending Nations Cup champions Namibia join hosts Romania and Georgia, which have all qualified for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, together with Americas Rugby Championship holders the Argentina Jaguars, Portugal and the Kings in a mouth-watering cross continental line-up.
“The inclusion of a Kings selection is another important step in our effort to create quality playing time for the Kings in view of their future participation in Vodacom Super Rugby,” said Saru president Oregan Hoskins.
“The tournament will assist Saru to give much-needed international exposure to players and coaching staff in a region that is of huge strategic importance to South African rugby.
“We are grateful to the IRB for giving the Kings the opportunity to play in this very competitive tournament.
“Saru is fully committed to the Eastern Cape rugby cause and has shown its commitment through tangible investments and capacity building on all levels.”
The Kings will be the first South African team to play in the Nations Cup since Emerging South Africa won back-to-back titles in 2007 and 2008.
Border, Eastern Province and South Western Districts form the Southern Kings, with Port Elizabeth as its base.
The Kings’ participation in the tournament is part of Saru’s strategy to prepare the Eastern Cape-based franchise for participation in the Super Rugby series.
As part of this initiative, the Kings have already played friendly matches against the Bulls, the Cheetahs and the Lions this season.
Matches against the Sharks and the Stormers are expected to be played later in the year.
A match against English club Saracens is also planned for later in the season.