The Southern Kings will replace the Golden Lions in next year’s Super 15.
The Port Elizabeth-based franchise have finally been given the go-ahead to join the southern hemisphere’s premier competition some three years after they faced Sir Ian McGeechan’s British & Irish Lions at the Nelson Mandela Stadium.
After much speculation as to which five teams would represent South Africa in Super Rugby in 2013, the SARU today confirmed that the Kings would join the Stormers, Sharks, Bulls and Cheetahs after having had their application postponed for a second time shortly after losing to Britain and Ireland’s elite in 2009.
"All rugby provinces have been consistently in support of the need for an Eastern Cape team in the Super Rugby competition," said SARU President Oregan Hoskins.
"That decision was first taken in 2005, but their inclusion has twice been postponed.
"We made a commitment to the Kings to include them in 2013 and rugby has delivered on that commitment.
"The franchise represents more clubs than any other region – apart from the Stormers – and 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."
Having finished bottom of the South African conference this season, the Golden Lions were the team to suffer from the Kings’ inclusion, a move that has angered the Johannesburg side who have hinted that the matter will not easily be put to bed.
"We are extremely disappointed at this result," said Lions president Kevin de Klerk.
"This is a very unfortunate decision which will result in a team taking part in a competition without needing to qualify on rugby merits.
"We will take time to consider this decision and then to plan our response that best protects our players, staff, stakeholders and supporters”.
A play-off match between the Lions and next season’s fifth-placed South African side will decide who will take part in the 2014 tournament, with this system then intended to be employed on a yearly basis.
"We operate promotion and relegation in all our Absa Currie Cup competitions, with the bottom-placed team being relegated unless it wins a play off," said SARU CEO Jurie Roux.
"Our strategic goal is to have six strong franchises covering the whole of South Africa and this decision keeps all of them in play on an annual basis."