The Southern Kings are a rugby union team based in Port Elizabeth, South Africa that compete in the annual Super Rugby competition. The creation of the team was formally announced at the opening of the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on 16 June 2009, in time to coincide with the 2009 British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa.
For the 2013 season, the Kings’ catchment area was made up of the Eastern Cape and parts of the Western Cape, drawing players from three provincial unions, namely the Eastern Province Kings, based in Port Elizabeth (representing the southern half of the Eastern Cape), the Border Bulldogs, based in East London (representing the northern half of the Eastern Cape) and the SWD Eagles, based in George (representing the South Western Districts).
Inclusion in Super Rugby
On 19 May 2009, Super Rugby governing body SANZAR announced that the existing Super 14 competition would be expanded to 15 teams from the 2011 season onwards.
The expansion would participate in the Australian Conference, but was open to tenders from all territories, with teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa expressing an interest. This was eventually reduced to just two bidders, the Melbourne Rebels and the Southern Kings. On 11 November 2009, SANZAR arbitrators awarded the 15th licence to the Melbourne Rebels, with geographical location and commercial value swaying the decision in the Australian franchise’s favour.
The South African Rugby Union were undeterred in their effort to bring Super Rugby to the Eastern Cape and on 27 January 2012, they confirmed that the Kings would participate in the 2013 Super Rugby season. Despite no initial decision as to how they will be accommodated in the competition, it was confirmed on 16 August 2012 that the Kings would take part at the expense of the Lions. They also announced that two-legged promotion/relegation play-off series would be played between the lowest-placed South African side in Super Rugby and the non-participating franchise every season.
Super Rugby 2013
The Kings made their Super Rugby debut on 23 February 2013, when they played in a Round Two match against Australian side the Force at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
The Kings won the game 22–10, with Sergeal Petersen scoring two tries and Demetri Catrakilis contributing twelve points with the boot.
The Kings’ top try scorer in the competition was Wimpie van der Walt, who got six tries and their top points scorer was Demetri Catrakilis, who scored 151 points. However, despite three victories and a draw, the Kings finished bottom of the South African Conference and had to play a two-legged promotion/relegation play-off series against the Lions.
The Lions beat the Kings 26–19 in Port Elizabeth in the first leg, but the Kings bounced back to emerge victorious in Johannesburg, with Scott van Breda scoring 18 points in a 23–18 victory. However, this was not enough to retain their Super Rugby status, as the Lions won 44–42 on aggregate to return them to Super Rugby in 2014 at the expense of the Kings.
Return to Super Rugby
On 4 September 2013, SANZAR boss Greg Peters confirmed that South Africa would get a sixth Super Rugby franchise from 2016, as the competition expanded once again. This was reiterated in 2014 when SANZAR confirmed that the competition would expand to 18 teams, with teams from Argentina and Japan joining the competition.
Having lost the promotion/relegation play-off to the Lions, the Kings missed out on Super Rugby in 2014. They also agreed to sit out the 2015 season by withdrawing from the proposed promotion/relegation match at the end of 2014. In exchange, the Eastern Province Kings were guaranteed participation in the 2014 and 2015 Currie Cup competitions, intended to aid the team’s preparation for a return to Super Rugby in 2016.