THE decision on which five franchises will participate in Super Rugby next year looks set to be dragged out further following revelations yesterday that the South African Rugby Union's (Saru's) general council meeting has been postponed until further notice.
Saru's top brass was expected to meet with the bosses of the 14 provincial unions next Friday to finalise the way forward in Super Rugby after the decision to include the Kings in the series next season was ratified by the provinces.
But with only five teams available and the six franchises unable to agree on a model that would please everyone, it was agreed that the general council would decide on the best way forward.
Given the uncertainty in the Lions and Kings camps in particular in the last few months about their future in the series, the meeting was expected to save them from limbo and allow them to plan accordingly for next season.
The postponement comes after Lions CEO Ruben Moggee admitted they had been looking into the possibility of joining forces in a tournament with overseas teams as a substitute for Super Rugby should the team make way for the Kings.
He also conceded that although it was tough to lure new players to the union, given the uncertainty about their inclusion in Super Rugby, they were committed to retaining a strong core of players, whether they were involved in the series or not.
Saru communications GM Andy Colquhoun is out of the country until July 17 and could not respond to questions yesterday about the postponement of the meeting.
With the saga set to drag on longer, Moggee voiced his frustration about the uncertainty of their future in Super Rugby when responding to a question whether any players had showed interest in leaving the union if the team were to drop out.
"It is a bit of an untenable situation from a timing perspective that no decision would be made by mid-July," said Moggee. "But there have been no official requests by players who want to leave. That said, I may be slightly naive to believe that the situation is all rosy."
Looking ahead, Moggee hoped that there would be some stability in the general council's decision when the vote takes place, regardless of the route they follow.
"In the end everyone wants to walk away knowing that the situation is in the best interests in South African rugby," said Moggee.
"We all have individual stakeholders and interests we need to protect and we are fighting very hard from a Lions perspective (to stay in the series). But at the end of the day we need a plan that will work for 2014, 2015 and beyond, rather than a short-term solution for 2013."
Regardless of the decision, he said the Lions would prefer "an entrenchment situation", similar to what the Kings wanted, so as to avoid being in one year and out the next. Nor did they want a continuing relegation process every year.
With the Vodacom Cup competition offering the only alternative to Super Rugby in the first half of the year, Moggee revealed that they had been looking into the idea of joining forces with overseas-based teams to ensure that the Lions play regularly and remain competitive.
However, should the union pursue such an avenue, they will be in a race against time to form such a tournament as the 2013 season begins in February.
"That has been the biggest challenge," said Moggee. "Everyone says that relegation is a good principle and they use examples in soccer and other rugby tournaments like the Heineken Cup. But there isn't a fall-back tournament in SA . and without that you have to create something. I believe there is an opportunity with the South American and Japanese teams where you can put something together."
Moggee said there was merit in this idea, citing the expansion of Super Rugby "and where the International Rugby Board is spending money on development . those areas are there..."