FRESH criticism of the Southern Kings' inclusion in Super Rugby has been dismissed as "mischief-making" by individuals bent on creating rifts in South African rugby.
That was the angry response of Kings chief executive Anele Pamba to reports that the Lions' relegation from Super Rugby was unfair and detrimental to the game.
Former Bok flank Andre Venter led the attack on the Kings' inclusion, saying it had taken SA Rugby back "100 steps".
"Rugby suffered a big setback when it was announced that the Kings would play Super Rugby," Venter fumed.
There are now also disgruntled voices emanating from the Free State as the Cheetahs face the prospect of a promotion- relegation match against the EP Kings. With one round of the Premier Division left, the Cheetahs are in danger of ending bottom and then being faced with a daunting double-header promotion-relegation clash to protect their top-tier status.
"It will be a sad day for rugby if Free State are not in the Currie Cup," former Free State and Springbok hooker Charl Marais said.
Pamba, however, is adamant the rules for promotion are fair and that the Kings had not been given any special treatment.
"There has been nothing underhanded about the way the Kings gained entry into Super Rugby or the manner in which promotion is organised. This was a decision taken by SA Rugby and everyone must abide by it," he said
"As far as I am concerned, this is just a case of north versus south rivalry rearing its head again.
"All our efforts are now being concentrated on winning Saturday's Currie Cup First Division cup final against the Pumas and gaining promotion to the Premier Division.
"We will not be sidetracked by this mischief-making, and remain focused on our goals.
"Some people have said our relations with the Lions are not good, but we are busy trying to arrange a friendly against them ahead of our debut in Super Rugby next year."
The first promotion/relegation game will be played at the home of the Premier Division outfit on October 20 and the second in Port Elizabeth a week later.
Possible opponents could come from Western Province (20 points), Griquas (20), Cheetahs (18) and Bulls (18) who are all languishing near the foot of the Premier Division table.
The Kings' playoff opponents will be decided after this weekend's final round of Premier Division fixtures in which the Sharks clash with Griquas on Friday, and WP with Free State and the Lions with the Blue Bulls on Saturday.