One of the Lions’ opponents on the 2009 tour to South Africa has finally been granted Super 15 status.
The Southern Kings were beaten 20-8 by the Lions in Port Elizabeth two-and-a-half years ago and had been hoping to gain entry to the southern hemisphere’s premier club competition in 2011.
That fixture against Britain and Ireland’s elite was meant to be a showcase for their Super Rugby credentials but the extension of the competition from 14 teams to 15 didn’t result in the Kings’ admission as Australia were granted an extra slot in the shape of the Melbourne Rebels.
Now they are on the verge of putting that disappointment behind them after winning a spot in the 2013 tournament that begins in 13 months time.
"The Kings' place in the Super Rugby competition in 2013 was confirmed by the general council, who gave it 100 percent support," said South Africa Rugby Union chief executive Jurie Roux.
"A final decision on the fate of the other five franchises will be made at a special general meeting on March 30 after the council has considered recommendations by the unions.
"There are a number of options, including asking Sanzar to include a sixth South African team."
A sixth South African franchise is a possibility but, given the fact that Super Rugby has only just been revamped from a single league table format to three five-team conferences prior to the play-offs, the Australian and New Zealand Rugby Unions may well strongly oppose the idea.
If that were to be the case and Sanzar ruled against an extra entrant then the Stormers, Sharks, Bulls, Cheetahs and Lions would face an uncertain future.
The Southern Kings’ inclusion has been heavily backed by politicians as well as rugby officials as they hail from the Eastern Cape, which is the hotbed of black rugby in South Africa.
None of their constituent teams – Eastern Province, South-Western Districts and Border – play in the premier division of South Africa's domestic Currie Cup competition but Eastern Province reached the First Division Final last season where they were beaten 43-12 by Boland.