Johannesburg’s Lions rugby team has been dropped from next year’s Super Rugby tournament in favor of Southern Kings from South Africa’s Eastern Cape province, leaving the biggest city in the three competing nations without a team.
The Lions, which finished at the bottom of the South African Conference in this year’s Super Rugby tournament, “will have the chance to regain their status in 12 months’ time,” the South African Rugby Union said in a statement on its website today. The Kings franchise “contains numerous leading rugby schools. It has been starved of top-class rugby competition for a decade and a half and now it has the chance to show what it can do.”
The annual Super Rugby tournament, which runs for about six months, includes 15 teams with five teams each from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. This year New Zealand’s Chiefs won the tournament with South Africa’s Durban-based Sharks coming second. The Lions came last out of the 15 teams, winning only three of its 16 games. At the end of last year the Lions won South Africa’s biggest rugby tournament, the Currie Cup.
“This is a very unfortunate decision which will result in a team taking part in a competition without needing to qualify on rugby merits,” Lions President Kevin de Klerk said in a statement on the rugby club’s website today. “ We are extremely disappointed at this result. We will take time to consider this decision and then to plan our response that best protects our players, staff, stakeholders and supporters.”