Eastern Province Rugby Union (EPRU) President, Cheeky Watson, left Port Elizabeth this afternoon for New Zealand, to go and address the Southern Kings touring squad following the announcement from the SA Rugby Union (SARU) relating to the foreign player issue.
At a brief press conference held at the airport, Watson confirmed that the Kings would be recalling Tomas Leonardi and Virgile Lacombe from the touring squad, and would be sending Edgar Marutlulle and Devin Oosthuizen to replace them.
Oosthuizen joined Watson on the flight from Port Elizabeth, while Marutlulle would join them in Johannesburg, for the flight through to Sydney, before flying over to Auckland and then on to Christchurch, where they will arrive on Friday morning.
Leonardi and Lacombe will have already departed Auckland to return to Nelson Mandela Bay by the time Watson and the other players arrive. They will be utilised in the Vodacom Squad going forward.
“I think it’s very clear by the last statement that we gave out, we were led to believe that according to the players that we signed, that technically we only have two foreign players within the system,” said Watson.
The Southern Kings were led to believe that the two Argentinean players would not be regarded as foreign players, as they were already participating under the Vodacom Cup banner as the Pampas, in much the same way as Daniel Adongo was exempted for hailing from Africa.
“But, being a provincial member of the South African Rugby Union, which is the governing body, we follow their guidelines on these issues,” he said.
Asked about whether there was bad blood between the union and SARU, Watson said: “It’s all water under the bridge, we have reached the stage in this region where we said that we are going to stop complaining about the late announcement on the 16th of August, in fact about everything, and just focus on getting the job done. It is immaterial if we are disgruntled or upset, we abide by SARU’s decision and will continue our fight between the white lines on the pitch,” he said.
Watson said he hoped the latest developments would galvanise the team even more.
“We have every confidence in the team and the team knows that they are playing for something far greater than just a rugby game, they know they are playing for the future of rugby in this region, they are playing to leave a legacy for future generations.”