‘Mutiny at the Kings’

Sports consultant Jason Smith has released a statement that he says aims to ‘expose the fraudulent actions of various members of Saru and the EPRU'.

Smith accuses the organisations of conspiring and colluding to rob Eastern Province rugby of their Super Rugby licence.

Saru recently took over control of the Southern Kings franchise, and on Sunday announced the signing of the first 20 players for the Super Rugby squad.

In his statement titled ‘Mutiny at the Kings’, Smith refers to Saru’s constitution, clause 10 (membership and associate membership), in highlighting one of the alleged breaches resulting from Saru’s takeover.

‘In the Saru constitution, clause 10 states … Saru’s membership shall be limited to 14 member unions. From those 14 member unions, six members have been awarded Super Rugby licences by Saru … These Super Rugby licences (and brands) are owned by their respective members.

‘In the case of the member union – Eastern Province Rugby, the licence is owned by Eastern Province Rugby Union even though the ‘’franchise’’ is supposed to represent the members of Eastern Province, Border and SWD. The fact is that the income generated from licensing various rights flows into EP Rugby Pty Ltd. The ownership of the Super Rugby licence rights are not being protected by the EPRU exco. The three directors of EP Rugby Pty Ltd are trading recklessly. There is Mutiny at the Kings,’ the statement continues.

‘Various executive members of Saru have conspired and colluded with the EPRU exco to remove the Super Rugby licence from Eastern Province Rugby Union and as a result prevented the flow of income derived from that licence into the commercial company [Eastern Province Rugby Pty Ltd]. The individuals have extracted the licence and placed it into a company called SA Rugby Travel Pty Limited.’

Smith further states that the sole director of the company is Saru CEO Jurie Roux, and that there were plans in place to change the name from SA Rugby Travel to SA Super Rugby.

‘The transfer of the Super Rugby licence – the most valuable asset of EP Rugby – has been activated (but IMO not concluded properly or legally) in a matter of two weeks … The shareholders are apparently Tourvest Destination Management (50%) and Saru (50%). Jurie Roux supposedly plans to change the shareholding and make Saru a 100% shareholder but how or when that 50% shareholding change takes place is not yet apparent,’ Smith’s statement reads further.

‘Roux and [former EPRU chief executive Charl] Crous have already made an announcement that Saru owns SA Rugby Travel 100% [the shareholding certificates at CIPC shows different] and both Roux and Crous have confirmed that SA Super Rugby now owns the Southern Kings. SA Rugby Travel has further offered employment contracts to various current employees of Eastern Province Rugby Pty Ltd and various current employees of EPRU.’

Furthermore, in citing a meeting held by Sarpa chief executive Piet Heymans, where unpaid players were informed that they could pursue legal action against EP Rugby Pty Ltd and look for employment elsewhere, Smith says World Rugby Regulation 4.9 was breached, which relates to approaches to players: '4.9.1: No Union, Rugby Body, Club, Agent or any other Person or entity, whether acting on its own account or on behalf of any third party, shall induce or attempt to induce any Contract Player or other Person who has a written agreement with a union, rugby body or club to leave his union, rugby body or club unless the prior written consent of that union, rugby body or club has been obtained.’

Smith has questioned the move of Crous into a position as chief operating officer of the new Southern Kings entity, and also the alleged ‘breach’ of the EPRU constitution when postponing their annual general meeting originally scheduled for 28 November.

A further question is raised over clause 27.7 of Saru’s constitution around whether the correct rights were obtained to begin taking corrective measures.

'Each member is a legal entity and Saru shall not have the authority to interfere in its affairs except where, in the executive council's opinion, there has been mismanagement of the administrative and/or financial affairs of a member,’ the first part of the clause reads.

Smith has also queried who exactly is funding the Southern Kings and which entity should be entitled to the broadcasting rights allegedly worth R28-million.

In response to the various claims made in the statements, a Saru spokesperson said: ‘The South African Rugby Union has noted the allegations and takes extreme exception to them. They are wholly without substance, inaccurate in fact and defamatory. We have placed the matter in the hands of our attorneys who will be contacting the authors forthwith with a view to further action. The rugby public of the Eastern Cape can be assured that Saru has acted entirely properly with the single aim of providing the region with a competitive Super Rugby team.'

Photo: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images

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Craig Lewis