Derick Küun, hooker of the victorious Bulls Super 14 team, has made a passionate plea to the other South African outfits to throw their collective weight behind the formation of the new Eastern Cape franchise, the Super Kings.
The EC franchise will be formally launched when Küun leads them out against the touring British and Irish Lions at the purpose-build Nelson Mandela Bay stadium on Tuesday – in front of what may well be a world record crowd for a non-Test fixture against the B&I Lions.
Speaking to rugby365.com, after a training run in Port Elizabeth, Küun said the need for a strong rugby team in the Eastern Cape is very evident.
He described Tuesday’s encounter with the world’s most famous touring team, the B&I Lions, as “something very unique” and said it could be the ideal launchpad for the new franchise -hoping for entry into Super Rugby when the SANZAR competition is expanded in 2011.
“As we all know, the Southern Kings are trying to launch a franchise that can compete in the Super 15,” Küun told rugby365, adding: “And it is a great privilege for us to lay a solid foundation for them.”
He said the entire team, which includes eight players with current or former Bulls affiliations, are looking forward to the occasion.
“Many of us would not have played against the Lions [was it not for the invitation to join the Kings] and we now have this opportunity, so we are going to make the most of it,” the hooker said.
He felt it is vitally important, for South African rugby in general, that there is a strong franchise in the Eastern Cape.
“It is certainly important that we help them [the Kings] get off the ground,” Küun told rugby365.
“Just look at the history of how important rugby was in the Eastern Cape,” he said, adding: “Eastern Province was one of the powerhouses of South African rugby and for many this is where rugby started.
“When we arrived here [in Port Elizabeth for the Kings versus Lions game] you could see there was something missing.
“These people can’t travel to other big centres [like Cape Town, Pretoria or Johannesburg] to watch rugby and the people are in need of something like this.
“Even for South Africa in general it would be great if there could be a strong franchise.”
* Meanwhile the people of Port Elizabeth, or Nelson Mandela Bay as the city is now dubbed, are hoping to set a new world record for a non-Test match on a British and Irish Lions tour.
By Monday morning 35000 tickets have already been sold for Tuesday’s showdown between the Kings and the touring Lions.
The current record for the highest number of tickets sold at a non-Test game against the Lions stands at 38000, set at a match between the Lions and New Zealand’s Waikato Chiefs in 2005.
The Eastern Province Rugby Union was confident it could exceed this target and has its sights set on 40000 ticket sales.
EPRU Chief Executive Anele Pamba told the media that the union was “confident” of reaching the target, which excludes 7000 complimentary tickets which have already been given away.
“We are about to break that record; I know we can definitely do it,” Pamba said.
Kings team manager Zola Yeye, a former Springbok team manager, was very excited about the prospect that the launch of the new Southern Kings franchise could set an attendance record in its first game.
“The people are hungry for rugby and this is very exciting,” he told rugby365.Tweet