Cheeky Watson says the EP Kings' promotion to an eight-team Currie Cup Premier Division will strengthen the development taking place in the province.
After a revote at Thursday's special general meeting, Saru confirmed that EP would be guaranteed their place in the top flight for the next two seasons, along with the Blue Bulls, Free State Cheetahs, Golden Lions, Sharks and Western Province. However, this does not apply to the non-franchise Pumas, who earned promotion from the First Division, or the eighth team that will have to qualify through a tournament set to take place after the Vodacom Cup.
Premier Division status will allow the Kings to build for their expected re-entry into Super Rugby in 2016, keep their players and attract others to the union.
'We have always maintained that there is a clear plan in place for the region, despite the Southern Kings' relegation at the end of the Super Rugby season last year,' said Watson, the president of the Eastern Province Rugby Union. 'The fact is that EP has the potential to truly transform the entire South African rugby landscape, through developing our local talent, providing them with the platforms to showcase their talent, and reach their full potential.
'We have the structures in place to develop these players to be the best professional athletes they can be, and we have the opportunities to provide these individuals with exposure to top flight rugby over the next few years.'
EP Rugby CEO Charl Crous said: 'This is great news for the region as it will help us to maintain the momentum that was created through the Southern Kings Super Rugby participation last year. We are glad to say that the outcome of the vote today clearly shows that the unions have the best interests of South African rugby at heart.
'We have said previously that there is a hunger for top flight rugby in the Eastern Cape and the amazing crowds that attended the Super Rugby games at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium last year have shown that this is the case.'
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