“Our players are being evicted, collecting food vouchers and there have been marriages ending in divorce.”
“Many of our staff and players, especially those from out of town, have no money for food and some have children. They cannot pay their rent, they cannot buy fuel – the situation is now beyond desperate.”
These are just two of the forlorn pleas made by people involved in the Eastern Province rugby team in response to the shameful fiasco that has seen them not being paid for the last three months.
The intervention of the South African Rugby Union, that has taken over control of the Southern Kings franchise which is set to return to Super Rugby next year, also seems to have merely fanned the flames of the crisis.
The national body has been accused by one anonymous player of being “corrupt” and “colluding with the South African Rugby Players’ Association” in effectively creating a new team that will exclude Eastern Province players and avoid the debts owed to them.Saru, however, have said around half the 42-man squad will come from the existing Eastern Province team.
“We have been working as hard as we can to put a workable plan into place, but we are unable to go into all the player details right now as we still have to confirm some contracts and tie up loan arrangements. But, considering when we started and from what base, I am very pleased with where we have come.
“I believe we are putting together a more-than-competent squad that will not only be representative of the region, but coincidentally meets the targets of our Strategic Transformation Plan four years ahead of schedule. The squad we have identified will have around 50% black players, while the management team is more than 50% black. Our rugby department has picked the best available talent,” Saru CEO Jurie Roux said when he announced the rescue plan to ensure the Southern Kings are operational come Super Rugby time.
But the EP players have rejected Saru’s plan as it will not deal with money owed to them, will force them to take a pay-cut and leaves half their number high and dry. They are also extremely unhappy that controversial president Cheeky Watson is rumoured to still be involved in the running of the Super Rugby squad.
In the meantime, Watson has reportedly closed the Eastern Province Rugby Union offices a week earlier than expected, sending all the staff away on their Christmas holidays with no money and no idea when they will be paid.
Supporters of the Kings have started raising money for the beleaguered players via the Red&Black Army Facebook page.