Kings hooker begins legal action against EP Rugby

Southern Kings players have starred taking legal action

Eastern Province Kings hooker Michael van Vuuren has had enough of the union’s cash crisis and is now exercising his legal rights to recoup monies owed to him.

Van Vuuren wrote a letter to the EP Rugby Union (EPRU) stating that the union is in breach of his contract for not paying him for October and November.

On the EP Rugby Army supporters’ Facebook page this week, Van Vuuren said in a statement: “The non-payment of monies due to me for October and November have left me financially embarrassed. I am no longer in a position to rely upon my friends and my family. The shroud of mystery that surrounds the sponsorship issue, the broken promises and continued financial issues as well as the constant reference to liquidation has rendered my position untenable.

“Unfortunately the executive is in material breach of my contract, and in the circumstances I have no choice but to cancel my contract and exercise my legal remedies.

“I reserve all my rights, including the right to amplify this letter and the reasons for my decision. This matter is now in the hands of my legal representatives.”

This comes as EP Kings players met with the EPRU president Cheeky Watson in an attempt to find solutions to the ongoing cash crisis.

Players and staff haven’t been paid their salaries for the last two-to-three months, which has seen head coach Brent Janse van Rensburg, as well as a number of top players such as Tim Whitehead, Lizo Gqoboka and Luther Obi leave the union.

This has resulted in the Southern Kings’ participation in the Super Rugby competition next year being placed in doubt, but the South African Rugby Union (SARU) intervened after Watson was unable to secure a sponsor to fund the team.

SARU have taken control of the Southern Kings franchise, and announced last week that former Boland mentor Deon Davids would be the head coach, while also naming a new management and medical team.

SARU CEO Jurie Roux said that he was hopeful of finalising two new sponsors for the Southern Kings team in early 2016, and that a 42-man playing squad would be picked soon.

Half of that squad will be made up of players from the EP Kings, with the rest coming from elsewhere, including some who will be on loan from other provinces in South Africa.

But the SARU plan has been met with opposition from the EP Kings players, who feel that those who don’t make the Super Rugby squad will be left high and dry, as they will still fall under the EPRU and not SARU.

Earlier this week, matters came to a head when a group of players and club officials, led by EP Kings centre Ronnie Cooke and scrumhalf Kevin Luiters, arrived at the union’s offices alongside the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in central Port Elizabeth to hand over a petition and meet with Watson to discuss their grievances.

The petition, which was signed by 32 players, stated:

I will not be prepared to work for EP Rugby Pty Limited, Eastern Province Rugby Union (EPRU) or Southern Kings Pty Limited, SA Rugby Pty Limited or SARU (acting on behalf of SANZAR or EPRU) or any associated companies until such time as there is an Annual General Meeting or Extraordinary/Special General Meeting of the EPRU in order that the order of business is as follows:

– A pledge by the Eastern Province Rugby Union and the South African Rugby Union that all players’ outstanding salaries and benefits be paid on before December 18;

– A vote by member clubs in favour or not in favour of the current EPRU executive committee on or before December 12;

– Credible rugby turnaround specialists be permitted to present proposals of a sustainable funding model in association with the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality on or before December 11;

– A vote of confidence by the EPRU clubs on the new proposal, and administration and management leadership, to take place on or before December 12.

The EPRU said in a statement that the players asked Watson to try and find another solution that would result in all EP Kings players – and not just those who would make the Southern Kings squad – being paid and able to play.

“We are aware of the challenges that are being faced by our players,” Watson said. “We have never experienced something like this before, these challenges were not foreseen and we never expected to get to this point.”

Watson said he would inform SARU about the players’ grievances and get back to the players.

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