Zelt Marais, the beleaguered Western Province Rugby Union administrator, has fired back at accusations that his unprofessional conduct prevented the union from securing a much-needed equity deal.
Last Tuesday, SA Rugby invoked its constitutional power to take administrative control of the WPRU, which controls 100% of their commercial arm Western Province Professional Rugby.
Experienced former SA Rugby CEO Rian Oberholzer was appointed as an administrator and has assumed oversight of the union’s affairs.
The decision was made as Western Province were reportedly on the brink of a financial collapse, facing liquidation and forfeiting their assets worth millions.
Marais has been accused of deliberately stalling potential equity deals – with MVM Holdings, who have invested in the Sharks, and an unnamed Hong Kong-based firm – for the past six months and of centralising all power in his position.
In an interview with Sport24, Marais spoke for the first time since SA Rugby took control of Western Province and rubbished the accusations against him.
“I find it absurd. It’s utter lies,” Marais told Sport24.
“Until the last date I was at the office last week, there were no formal offers received from any party.
“I had correspondence on 1 and 3 October with one of the parties [a Hong Kong-based equity firm], indicating that we [WPRFU] were having a general council meeting on 7 October.
“We wanted a formal offer to take to that general council, and they indicated they’d put something formal through the following day, so we can present it, but it didn’t come. There was nothing really concrete.”
Marais’ version of events is not supported by Western Province chairman Ebrahim Rasool, who said the deal with the Hong Kong firm is still possible.
“I couldn’t believe we kept them waiting for six months before we got into substantial discussions with them,” Rasool said.