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SARU and South Kings deny reports of pay-off
ESPN Staff
July 15, 2012
The Lions' position within the Super Rugby competition appears to be under threat © Getty Images
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The South Africa Rugby Union and the Southern Kings have denied they have struck a financial deal that will see the fledgling franchise delay their Super Rugby entry.

The Kings were due to join the competition next year but according to the Weekend Argus they have agreed to wait until 2016 in return for a R40m (£3.1m) payment from SARU. It was reported that they have been persuaded to wait a further three years by which stage a new broadcast rights deal will have been brokered that SARU hope will allow an expansion of the existing competition and remove the need for one of the existing South African sides to make way for the Kings.

SARU have dismissed the reports as speculation and stressed that negotiations surrounding the 2013 Super Rugby participation is "ongoing". The Kings have also moved to reassure fans with the Eastern Cape-based side issuing the following statement via Twitter: "The story going around we've taken money to stay out of Super Rugby in 2013 is NOT TRUE! We will be playing Super Rugby in 2013."

Kings boss and Eastern Province Rugby Union president Cheeky Watson has also rubbished the reports. "The reported article of the negotiated R40m comes as an absolute surprise to the Executive of EPRU Union," Watson wrote on Twitter.

Watson was forced deny similar reports last month when he told Sport24: "The rumours are false. There is definitely no such agreement with SARU. I think they are rumours that were started by people who want to sink the Kings."

"We should have played Super Rugby in 2011 already, but stood back with the best interests of South African rugby in mind. A decision has been made that we will play Super Rugby in 2013 and that is what we're striving for."

Discussing the matter last week, SARU chief executive Jurie Roux said, "Rugby has been consistently united in supporting the Kings' place in Super Rugby in 2013. Our focus has been on finding a rugby answer to the questions that flow from that decision that's fair, transparent in its mechanism and will strengthen South African rugby in the long run. Those discussions continue.

"Until a final decision is reached, the franchises and the SARU presidency are agreed that it would be unhelpful to the competing teams to publicly debate the pros and cons of different scenarios. When a decision is announced we will be able to report back to rugby supporters in full."

SARU revealed earlier this year that the Kings would enter the competition but were frustrated in their attempts to negotiate and immediate expansion of the format with SANZAR bosses insisting the terms of the current broadcast deal meant any such changes could not be implemented.

Discussions between SARU and the existing South African entrants - the Bulls, the Cheetahs, the Lions, the Sharks and the Stormers - failed to produce an answer as to how six franchises could fit into the five available tournament spaces. As a result it was expected that the bottom-placed side in this year's South African Conference would make way with the Lions poised to drop out of the competition.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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