South Africa scraps Super Rugby play-offs
February 14, 2014
The Lions beat the Kings over two legs in 2013 © Getty Images
South Africa have scrapped their Super Rugby promotion-relegation play-offs, ensuring the bottom team in the conference this year will play in the 2015 competition.
The South African Rugby Union (SARU) decision will please the Lions, the Johannesburg-based franchise widely expected to anchor the country's conference. The Lions were kicked out of the competition for 2013 to make politically expedient room for the Southern Kings, but they regained a place in the 2014 championship with victory in a two-leg play-off against their bottom-placed Port Elizabeth-based rivals.
The Kings waived the right to a 2014 play-off after winning a "boardroom" promotion to the Currie Cup, the oldest domestic inter-provincial rugby competition in the world. They are guaranteed top-flight status alongside defending champions Natal Sharks, the Blue Bulls, Free State Cheetahs, Golden Lions and Western Province for the next two seasons. A qualifying competition among the other eight sides in the two-tier Currie Cup will provide the remaining two top-flight teams.
The Kings have failed consistently to earn promotion from the Currie Cup second division, and have been a thorn in the side of SARU for several years given they are based in the Eastern Cape, home to majority of African rugby players. African advancement in a sport formerly dominated by whites has been slow since the collapse of apartheid, and Tendai Mtawarira was the only regular black player in the 2013 Springboks side.
SARU officials want the Kings included in an enlarged Super championship when the format of five teams each from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand expires at the end of next season.
Greg Growden and Russell Barwick preview the 2014 South African Super Rugby conference
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