Outgoing Southern Kings director of rugby Alan Solomons went out in a blaze of glory following his franchise’s relegation from Super Rugby on Saturday, despite a 23-18 victory over the Lions at Ellis Park.
“I think it is an absolute disgrace that we are not in Super Rugby and if we are interested in truly transforming this game the Eastern Cape has to be there,” Solomons said.
“We need some leadership here and leadership has got to decide what they want to do about South African rugby. Do they want to move it on or do we want to stay where we were prior to 1994?”
The Kings lost the first leg of the promotion-relegation matches in Port Elizabeth and needed to win by eight points on Saturday to maintain the status quo.
Instead, there were scenes of celebrations in Doornfontein as the Lions clawed their way back from the Super Rugby wilderness.
“I look at it from our franchise’s point of view and we’ve had a fantastic debut season,” Solomons said.
“We got the rough end of refereeing decisions in the first match and it cost us our Super Rugby status. To say the least it is unsatisfactory.”
While Lions coach Johan Ackermann was overjoyed with their new-found Super Rugby status, he conceded that it was a flawed process.
“It should have been better dealt with and there could have been a better solution,” Ackermann said.
“Tonight there is no winner: We win, so we are all smiles and they lose, so all the work they’ve done there, will be on hold now.
“From a South African perspective, if I was Heyneke Meyer and I had six franchises to choose from, I would be smiling.”
Solomons said their relegation was not only a setback for rugby in the Eastern Cape but for the sport as a whole.
“The Kings have got to do everything in their power to keep things going, the South African Rugby Union have to ensure that we are in the Premier Division of the Currie Cup at the very least,” Solomons said.
Ackermann was sympathetic to the Kings’ cause as their relegation had consequences in many facets of their structures.
“There are many changes that happen — you plan to sign coaches for your Super Rugby, your Vodacom Cup and your Under-20s — then suddenly things change and you have to adapt,” he said.
“There are many implications…I honestly can’t say how you find a solution for it now.”
He said the Lions were now in the same situation as the Kings were in a year ago where they had little time to assemble a squad for next year’s Super Rugby competition.
“We couldn’t commit to a Super squad until we knew the results after these two games,” Ackermann said.
“We worked on a plan B where the focus was on youngsters and now we can start looking at Franco van der Merwe, Elton Jantjies and all those high-profile players.”