Answers needed for WP woes

Western Province’s insipid semi-final defeat needs to be compartmentalised. There are bigger questions that must be answered about ‘off-field’ performance, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

It can’t be overlooked that for many onlookers who have a vested interest in WP, there was a cruel sense of irony about the Sharks’ victory over Western Province in Saturday’s semi-final.

Just 24 hours before the clash, the Sharks had announced a new partnership with the internationally acclaimed agency Roc Nation, which aims to take the brand of the Durban-based franchise to a global level.

WATCH: Sharks launch global partnership

The deal was a direct spinoff of the even bigger news earlier in January that American company MVM Holdings had acquired a 51% controlling share in the Sharks, with president of Roc Nation Sports International, Michael Yormark, forming part of the consortium.

This multi-million dollar deal was completed in double quick time after WP’s so-called ‘leaders’ in the boardroom postured and procrastinated until the consortium members opted to look elsewhere, and very quickly found a more-than-willing partner waiting just up the east coast of South Africa.

In the current climate of extraordinary financial pressures, the Sharks quickly realised that MVM boasted the wherewithal to provide much-needed investment and expertise. Conceding a controlling share was never seen as a deal-breaker, and WP Rugby’s loss was very much the Sharks’ gain.

Although there is a salary cap that was enforced in South African rugby from 2019, you can rest assured that the Sharks will very carefully reassess all there squad options in the coming weeks and months, before looking to recruit highly-regarded players in key positions.

READ: ‘We want the Sharks to have the best players’

The investments and opportunities are sure to extend off the field as well, as the Sharks look to position themselves for long-term stability and success.

Only time will tell if all the investment ultimately materialises into proposed on-field success, but what cannot be questioned is that while the Sharks are moving forward, Western Province are left wondering what may have been.

There is a reason so many WP players were unequivocal in advocating for the MVM deal to go through, and yet, after the loss of potential stability and security, one of the first fallouts is set to be the departure of Springbok captain Siya Kolisi.

ALSO READ: Kolisi coup a sign of things to come for Sharks

There are sure to be more departures, but will anyone be answerable and accountable?

Don’t forget that back in November, key American consortium members met with WP Rugby president Zelt Marais and chairman Ebrahim Rasool.

But then the talks went cold.

Not long after, I chatted to one of the leading consortium members. To say he was exasperated would be a gross understatement.

‘The deal will never go ahead,’ he said. ‘There has to be two willing parties to make this happen. And there just isn’t.’

Days later, the deal officially imploded. A few weeks after that, the Sharks unveiled the completion of their partnership with MVM.

In conversation with key role-players from the Durban franchise, the overwhelming sentiment was one of incredulity that Western Province had botched the opportunity to bag the investment.

Still, no one quite knows why. As one other consortium member asked me when negotiations fell through: ‘Why don’t WP want to do this deal?’

Was it simply an unwillingness to concede the control of a majority share? Boardroom politics? Simple maladministration? He was none the wiser, which spoke volumes about the level of communication from WP negotiators.

These bigger questions still persist during a period of turmoil when the departure of disgruntled board members, bungled partnerships, dodgy dealings and damages claims all hang over WP.

And even for former players, it appears they are watching on with tears in their eyes (see tweets below).

These are troubling times for WP Rugby. But it’s also time for some answers and accountability.

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Craig Lewis