Southern Kings branded an ‘unmitigated disaster’

Luke Watson is understood to be one of the players offered a contract

The Southern Kings have been described as an “unmitigated disaster” by a former CEO as only selected players have been offered contracts by the South African Rugby Union (SARU) to play for the Super Rugby franchise.

South African Rugby took over management of the Southern Kings last month and have effectively starting stripping the franchise of it’s assets (the players) as the Union sinks deeper into financial woes.

Accoriding to sources former Southern Kings captain and Springbok flank Luke Watson, son of EP Rugby Union (EPRU) president Cheeky is among those who have been approached.

The number of players varies between n 17 and 22 EP players who have been offered contracts for the new season which begins in just over two months. It is understood that SARU plan to fill the rest of the squad with players from the Sevens and Under-20 ranks.

This comes after hooker Michael van Vuuren stated that he was seeking legal advice to recoup money owed to him by the Eastern Province Rugby Union (EPRU) for a breach of contract, as EP players haven’t been paid salaries for the last two to three months due to a lack of sponsorship.

This has thrown the Southern Kings’ participation in Super Rugby into disarray, with coach Brent Janse van Rensburg and top players such as Tim Whitehead, Lizo Gqoboka and Luther Obi quitting the franchise.

SARU stepped in and took over the running of the franchise, and last week appointed Deon Davids as head coach, with a new team management that will be supported by SARU’s Mobi-Unit that includes former Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus and Springbok technical advisor Chean Roux.

The EP Kings players, led by scrumhalf Kevin Luiters and centre Ronnie Cooke, drew up a petition demanding that all outstanding salaries be paid by December 18 and that an annual general meeting be held to determine if the current EPRU executive should be removed or remain in place.

The dire situation of the Kings has been slammed by former Southern Spears CEO Tony McKeever.

The Spears were formed in 2005 by SARU to potentially play Super Rugby, with ex-Springbok coach Peter de Villiers appointed to take charge of the team.

But that project fell flat in a similar way to how the Kings drama has unfolded. McKeever has seen this movie before, and lambasted the EP Kings CEO Charl Crous and SARU for allowing the situation to deteriorate to such an extent.

“EP rugby is an unmitigated disaster,” McKeever said in an interview with the SABC.

“Maladministration and financial mismanagement… and now you have a situation in which there’s a rogue element within the South African Rugby Players Association (SARPA) who are blackmailing the players right now.

“And there’s an element within SARU who have conspired and colluded to exclude an asset worth about R30 million…. and those are the 28 players that haven’t been offered contracts.

“You can’t just extract a R30m asset from EP Rugby, from the clubs in that area – and there are 110 of them – and then shut one door and open another 100 metres away (at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, where the Southern Kings will operate from under SARU).

“This is what the current CEO of EP Rugby (Charl Crous) has done. He’s walked out of his office, walked across 100m into the stadium and left behind an absolute disaster.

“Players are devastated, families are devastated…. thinking that they can open up a new office with a new entity just across the road. You just can’t do that.”

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