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SARU seizes control of Southern Kings ahead of Super Rugby return

The South African Rugby Union (SARU) has moved to seize control of Super Rugby franchise the Southern Kings in a bid to assist the Eastern Province Rugby Union, which is enduring financial difficulties.

Following demotion in 2013, the Southern Kings are scheduled to return to Super Rugby in 2016 as part of the competition’s expansion. The tournament currently contains five teams each from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, but is set to expand to 18 teams from 2016 through the addition of the Port Elizabeth-based Kings, along with new clubs from Argentina and Japan.

Concerns were first raised over the status of the Kings in October, amid reports of delayed payments to players. Due to the Kings’ failure to pay their players, the South African Rugby Players Association (SARPA) has informed the players of their right to leave the franchise.

SARU has now agreed to assist the Eastern Province Rugby Union by taking control of the Southern Kings. The action followed a decision taken by the SARU some weeks ago to step into the Kings’ affairs if certain expectations were not realised.

“We gave the Kings as long as possible to resolve their issues through their own efforts but the point had been reached where they could wait no longer,” Oregan Hoskins (pictured), president of SARU, said. “It is a decision we have had to take reluctantly but it is now 101 days until Vodacom Super Rugby moves into a new era with new teams and new nations taking part and we collectively agreed we could not allow South Africa’s new entrant to be under-prepared.”

Jurie Roux, chief executive of SARU, said that the organisation had undertaken some contingency planning in the event of the governing body being required to take control and those plans would now be put into operation.

“We have already had conversations around off-field and on-field preparations but I don’t want to mislead anyone, there is still much to do,” Roux said. “For the moment we will be working behind the scenes to sort out the various issues that we need to address. In the meantime we would thank the rugby fans of Port Elizabeth and the Eastern Cape for their patience and to have just a little more while we finalise those plans.

“I hope that we will be able to reveal the new management processes of the Kings and other details in a week or two. For the moment, our focus is on sorting out the finances and identifying the playing and coaching needs for Vodacom Super Rugby participation.”

The Southern Kings are due to kick off their Super Rugby campaign with a home match against the Sharks at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on February 27.