Southern Kings captain Luke Watson has said that SARU’s decision to relegate the Lions was unfair and expressed sadness at the Lions’ Super Rugby exit.
Speaking to SportsTalk in a radio interview, Watson sympathised with the Lions’ plight, and said fans had every right to feel aggrieved.
“I’ve always prided myself on seeing both sides of the story, and I can understand how Lions fans could become quite frustrated and angered at the inclusion of the Kings because the way in which it was done was not fair,” Watson said.
Watson said the Lions’ Super Rugby exit saddened him.
“I watched the Lions this weekend and it saddens me to see such a great team, with so many great players (excluded) just as they were coming back on the rise, winning a Currie Cup, playing so well and gaining momentum,” Watson said.
“Even now it saddens me because I look at a lot of players that had to go to the Bulls, to the Stormers. It’s not fair on them and it’s not fair on Lions supporters, so I can understand Lions fans being irritated and anti the Kings. It’s perfectly understandable.”
Watson said he understood the hostility towards the Kings, but felt that the blame lay at the feet of SA Rugby’s leadership.
“There are loads of Lions fans who would love to see us fail. I can understand that.”
“It was never our goal or purpose to get the Lions excluded. Our desire was to be included. In our minds it was never us versus the Lions. (We wanted) to bring top-flight rugby to (the Eastern Cape),” Watson said.
“The leaders and the decision makers at SA Rugby decided that this was the best way forward,” Watson opined.
Watson said that that with players like Andries Strauss, Steven Sykes, Demetri Catrakilis and Bandise Maku he felt the EP Kings could be competitive in Super Rugby, but did not play down the size of the challenge facing his team.
“Super Rugby is the fastest provincial competition in the world. Nothing quite comes close to the speed and tenacity of Super Rugby,” Watson said.