Luke Watson is disappointed at missing out on a Vodacom Super Rugby contract, but says he will be cheering the Southern Kings on from the stands next year.
Watson was a surprise omission from the Super Rugby squad confirmed by Saru on Sunday, with the first 20 players signing new deals with the Southern Kings.
Although Watson has endured a number of injury problems throughout his career, many believed he was the top candidate to captain the Kings next year.
'It was a moment of mixed emotion when the Super Rugby squad was announced,' he said in a statement. 'I was obviously disappointed for myself and for many of the other payers who didn't make the squad but at the same time I was extremely happy for my teammates that made it.
'The past couple of months have been very difficult for us as a group,' he added in reference to the financial turmoil that has beset the Kings and seen Saru have to take control of the Super Rugby franchise. 'There have been many challenges. The team must be applauded for the character that has been shown during these tough times. It's far from an ideal situation with some of the players being left out. It's not fair on them. They really deserve to be there too.'
Watson is known to have shown his support for the players who presented his father and EPRU president, Cheeky Watson, with a petition of grievances last Monday, and which left many players in a catch-22 as they had to decide whether or not to accept the contracts on offer.
Despite missing out on a contract, Watson said he would remain fully behind the team.
'The situation is out of our hands and we need to see what is next for us as a group of players who were not included in the Super Rugby squad. At this stage, I believe that the most important thing is for us as players, as a city and as a province to get behind the Southern Kings. There might be many reasons to be unhappy about how things have worked out, but as a province we need to get behind our side and give them our full support.'
Watson, who led the team during the Kings' Super Rugby campaign in 2013, said the side should draw on that season for motivation, which included three wins and a draw.
'In 2013, the results didn't necessarily go our way, but across the world people spoke about the passion and commitment that our supporters showed. So I encourage everyone to get behind the team and support them wholeheartedly. This is our opportunity as a region to once more be on an international platform and show the world what we are about.'
In all likelihood, Watson's omission from the Super Rugby is set to bring the 32-year-old's career to an end.
'Every single player in the team has my complete support. I am extremely happy for them and I know that they will make us proud,' he commented. 'I am proud to come from the Eastern Cape, there is no other place like it in the world and I'm incredibly passionate about the Kings. I will be there cheering the team on from the stands.'
Photo: Michael Sheehan/BackpagePix