• D-Day for Kings players

    Southern Kings players who have been earmarked for Vodacom Super Rugby contracts are set to receive their written offers on Wednesday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.

    Players have begun to be informed if they are in line to receive contracts from Saru, which has taken control of the Southern Kings franchise, and have been advised of their professional and legal options.

    It’s believed that no more than 22 current Kings players will be contracted by Saru for Super Rugby, with the rest of the squad set to be drawn from the existing EP Kings group, while sevens and junior players may also be included along with those on loan from other provinces.

    Luke Watson, who has been touted as the likely captain of the Southern Kings, is expected to be one of the players set to receive a written offer on Wednesday, with those who do having until Thursday to accept or decline.

    On Monday, Kings players – led by Kevin Luiters and Ronnie Cooke – handed over a petition of grievances to EPRU president Cheeky Watson, while raising concerns about the fact that only some of them would be offered contracts for Super Rugby from Saru. The other players will remain reliant on the cash-strapped Eastern Province Rugby Union to pay their outstanding salaries.

    The South African Rugby Players’ Association has offered to hold one-on-one discussions with such players on Thursday and Friday, which will focus on exploring alternative options, while providing assistance and the opportunity to pursue a legal claim on their behalf against the EP Kings for outstanding salaries.

    Talented young hooker Michael van Vuuren, who is the latest player to confirm his departure from the Kings, has already announced he will be taking legal action.

    ‘Unfortunately I am no longer in a position to accept non-payment of monies due to me and the present climate of uncertainty. These monies are the life blood of my existence,’ he wrote in an official statement.

    ‘The non-payment of monies due to me for October and November have left me financially embarrassed. I am no longer in a position to rely upon my friends and my family. The shroud of mystery that surrounds the sponsorship issue, the broken promises and continued financial issues as well as the constant reference to liquidation has rendered my position untenable. Unfortunately the executive is in material breach of my contract and in the circumstances I have no choice but to cancel my contract and exercise my legal remedies.’

    On Monday and Tuesday, representatives of Sarpa met with players, representatives of Saru and the management company of the Southern Kings to receive clarity around the contracting plan. In a statement, Sarpa said they were comfortable with Saru’s intervention plan and believed it was the ‘only viable option given the current situation’.

    ‘We have requested that Saru confirm the bankability of this process going forward as to avoid the players ending in a similar situation in the future,’ the statement read.

    ‘The players' association can confirm that SKSAR [Southern Kings SA Rugby Pty Ltd] has identified players who it will make written offers to on Wednesday, 9 December. Players will be given until Thursday, 10 December to accept or reject the presented offer. An official SKSAR team meeting is planned for later in the week with the contracted players and team management to start with preparations for Super Rugby.’

    Photo: Michael Sheehan/BackpagePix

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    Craig Lewis