Easter Province Rugby Union President Cheeky Watson will find a bunch of angry players on his doorstep on Monday. Jan de Koning reports for Rugby365
The South African Rugby Union will not be happy to learn that their plan with the Kings will be met with resistance from within the player ranks, while SANZAR has also been dragged into the sorry mess.
rugby365 can reveal that a large group of Kings players met at the weekend and have signed a petition in which they demand changes to the management structures of both the EPRU, the EP Kings and Southern Kings.
The petition, signed by 30-odd players, will be handed to Watson on Monday.
Lubabalo Mpongoshe, the spokesman for the players, said the players have become “extremely frustrated” with the state of affairs.
“They have not been paid for three months now and there is no clarity on the way forward,” he told rugby365, adding that they are also upset with the way SARU has handled the situation.
One of the biggest concerns is the fact that SARU is planning to use Sevens and Under-20 players to make up the bulk of the Super Rugby squad – leaving most of the players in the current Kings squad out in the cold.
In one of several blows to the embattled Kings players this week they were told they have to take salary cuts, and that is ONLY the small selection that are likely to make SARU’s Super Rugby cut.
Players who do not make it into the Super Rugby squad will have to rely on the near bankrupt EPRU for an income.
SARU last Friday revealed part of the management team – which include naming Deon Davids (currently a coach at the South Western Districts Academy) as head coach.
His assistants will be Mzwandile Stick (backs coach), Barend Pieterse (forwards coach) and Nadus Niewoudt (conditioning coach) – while Zingi Hela (the manager of the Border Academy) has been appointed team manager. They will be assisted by consultant coaches from the SARU mobi-unit.
These developments have not gone down well within the Kings’ player ranks.
Mpongoshe, a rugby development officer in the Kings region, said the players have lost all confidence in the current structures and don’t see SARU’s way forward as viable either – as that will only cater to a very small percentage of the current Kings players.
It is clear the players have lost all confidence in the EPRU President, Watson, and feel he is no longer fit to hold office.
The players’ petition, of which rugby365 has a copy, makes some eye-opening demands, including that they will ‘not work for SARU’.
The COLLECTIVE PLAYER STATEMENT in full:
“I hereby confirm that I am joining the EP Rugby Funding Petition and Rugby Player Strike.
“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:
1. An irrevocable pledge by EPRU and SARU that all players’ outstanding salaries and benefits are fully paid up on or before the 18th December 2015.
2. A vote by member clubs in favour, or not in favour of the current EPRU Executive Committee on or before the 12th December 2015.
3. Credible and competent rugby turnaround specialists be permitted to present proposals of a sustainable funding model in association with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality on or before Friday the 11th December 2015.
4. A vote of confidence by the EPRU Clubs in the new proposal and administration and management leadership to take place on or before Saturday the 12th December.”
The latest development is likely to leave SARU with plenty of egg on their collective faces, following their ‘big’ announcement last Friday.
They have an agreement with SANZAR to deliver a competitive sixth Super Rugby franchise and faced with a player revolt, they may have to go back to the table.
Watson, who won a stay of execution when an Extraordinary Special General Meeting of the EPRU was postponed at the 11th hour last month, has stubbornly clung to power at the Eastern Cape union – despite growing resistance from within club and player circles.
Last month he said he had no intention of stepping down, but the Kings President’s actions resulted in SARU and SANZAR being dragged into the mess.
While SARU is planning to run the Southern Kings franchise as a separate entity to the EPRU and EP Kings, it has not stopped the players from standing together as a collective in their revolt against ‘big brother’.
SARU had planned to put only about 20 of the 2016 Southern Kings squad on their books. Those would be the contracted Sevens and Under-20 players.
They are planning to fill the rest of the squad, which is required to number 35 according to SANZAR regulations, from within the EP Kings ranks – i.e. the unpaid players.
Any players selected by SARU will have to sign new eight-month contracts (no long-term security), while their current contracts with EP Rugby will become null and void.
According to rugby365’s sources the SARU offer is also not on par with the currently salaries of Kings players, meaning if they accept SARU’s offer they must take pay cuts.
By Jan de Koning