Lions and Cheetahs in danger?
Jóhann Thormählen and Pieter Jordaan
Harold Verster (Gallo Images)
Bloemfontein – The decision by SANZAR to award the 15th franchise to Melbourne in the expanded Super Rugby series from 2011 spells danger for the Lions and Cheetahs.
The two South African sides are deeply concerned about their future as it appears a certainty that the Southern Kings will be one of the five South African teams from 2011 onwards.
Not even the Sharks, Bulls or Stormers can sleep easily following the SANZAR decision.
Free State Rugby Union president Harold Verster said that the South African teams are only assured of their places until the Super14 ends in 2010.
“After that anything can happen. That is why it’s important that the Cheetahs perform well next year. If you get a chance, you have to perform,” said Verster.
Success in the 2010 competition will therefore be of vital interest to the Cheetahs and Lions.
Manie Reyneke, chief executive of the Golden Lions Rugby Union (GLRU), admits that success may be crucial in the future.
“Of course we are worried,” said Reyneke. “It will be a tragedy if one of the teams has to make way for the Southern Kings. I really think South Africa have enough players for six regional teams.”
Rugby officials from the Kings, who are believed to be banking on Government support, believe the Cheetahs and Lions will become one region again.
Statements by Butana Komphela, chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on sport, stated this week that the South African Rugby Union has to urgently address the Kings issue. This is a pointer to the political support the aspiring new franchise has.