Qondakele Sompondo, who was involved in a scuffle with EP Rugby security at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Monday, says he was there to show solidarity with the Kings players. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
Kings players, led by Kevin Luiters and Ronnie Cooke, handed over a petition of grievances to EPRU president Cheeky Watson on Monday, but before the meeting took place, a scuffle broke out between members of the Rugby Transformation Coalition and security staff.
In a media release from EP Rugby on Monday, they said Sompondo was not affiliated with any club structure related to the union, and had become physical with EP Rugby security and tried to force his way into the EPRU offices and the meeting.
However, Sompondo – who coached the EP U19 side for four years from 2007 to 2011 – refuted this when speaking to SARugbymag.co.za.
‘I’m not sure why there was a need to manhandle me. As a representative of the Rugby Transformation Coalition and coach at Rhodes University, I was just one of the interested parties who wanted to show our support for the players. We’ve realised that we’re fighting the same fight. The union must not run away from accounting to us, there are lots of concerns and questions, and they need to be addressed now.’
Sompondo reiterated the call for accountability, with the players’ statement calling for answers from the leadership at the Kings, while concerns were also expressed over the arrangement with Saru to take over the Southern Kings franchise for Vodacom Super Rugby next year.
‘There haven’t been any EPRU meetings this year, and then the Annual General Meeting was recently postponed at the 11th hour,' Sompondo commented. 'We need these meetings so that Cheeky can account to the stakeholders of EP Rugby, and for clarity to be provided over the financial situation at the union.
‘We also need Saru to engage and intervene now, before it is too late,' he added. ‘Saru’s plan for the Super Rugby franchise is not helping the majority, it’s only catering for a select group who will be contracted. What does that say about the rest who will have a bleak Christmas? They also mustn’t go and speak to Cheeky, he is the problem, they need to come and account to us now.’
Chairperson of the Rugby Transformation Coalition, Bantwini Matika, said the crisis at the Kings had reached ‘unprecedented proportions’.
‘We’ve identified these problems for years and followed the due process, but without any reward. Now we’ve seen a collapse of the whole system. Financially, never before has EP Rugby been so in the red. It’s a crisis of unprecedented proportions.’