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SA Rugby regains control of Southern Kings

Alandre van Rooyen of Isuzu Southern Kings appeals to the touch judge during the Pro14 match against Munster (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

SA Rugby, the governing body of rugby union in South Africa, has assumed management control of the Southern Kings, describing the move as a “last resort” to save the Pro14 team.

SA Rugby has taken back a 74-per-cent shareholding in the Kings and has appointed a finance team to work with franchise administrators to ensure salary payments are made and business needs are addressed.

SA Rugby will assume the shareholding from the Greatest Rugby Company in the Whole Wide World (GRC), which acquired 74 per cent of the franchise in January 2019. Minority shareholder EPRU retained a 26-per-cent shareholding.

SA Rugby has taken the action after GRC failed to deliver on the financial commitments of last year’s acquisition. The decision will ensure the Southern Kings’ participation in the Pro14 and/or any other competitions that may be established within the constraints of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby, said: “I cannot stress enough how reluctant we are to resume control of the Isuzu Southern Kings.

“It is our last resort and we are keen to explore ways to return the shareholding to another’s hands, in conjunction with the EPRU, the minority shareholder, who have given the required approval to the decision. The next step is to appoint a new board to oversee the franchise’s affairs and ensure the team is match ready for when we are able to resume playing.”

SA Rugby first competed in Super Rugby in 2013 but lost its place in the competition at the end of that season. SA Rugby was forced to assume control of the team in November 2015 after EPRU faced financial problems.

The team then returned to an expanded Super Rugby in February 2016 before joining the Pro14 in 2017 alongside fellow South African side the Cheetahs.

Alexander added: “This was a decision we took with extreme reluctance and after allowing GRC considerable lee-way in which to meet the contractual commitments they made on the acquisition of the shareholding.

“We appreciated the vision and intentions of the GRC but unfortunately we are operating in an unforgiving business environment.”

Rassie Erasmus, SA Rugby’s director of rugby, is liaising with the Kings’ director of rugby and interim coach Robbie Kempson on immediate team matters. SA Rugby will decide in the coming days whether an administrator needs to be appointed.