The Kings are set to reveal further details around the franchise’s ambitious new ownership agreement at a launch next week, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Towards the end of last year it was reported that a R45-million buyout deal had been concluded to see the Kings effectively become South Africa’s first privately-owned franchise.
A consortium – made up of local business people Rory Stear, Loyiso Dotwana, Gary Markson, Kenny Govender and Vuyo Zitumane – assumed 74% ownership of the Kings franchise, with the EPRU having a 26% share.
It’s believed that there are now plans for the Kings to revive a local rugby academy and to appoint a high-performance director, with details expected to be announced at a launch scheduled for 14 March. The Kings may also announce a new chief operating officer to succeed Charl Crous, who is set to take up a role as the Pro14’s head of operations later this year.
It’s been a tumultuous few years for the Kings, who have gone in and out of Vodacom Super Rugby, while they have managed just three wins from 38 games since joining the Pro14.
However, it’s hoped that the new investments will allow for the franchise to be professionally streamlined and successfully restructured, with a cash injection allowing for both the retention and recruitment of players and support staff.
The new ownership deal was also made possible by the agreement from Isuzu Motors South Africa, who have come on board as the team’s title sponsor for the next three years.
Stear, who has played a considerable role in the successful Kings takeover, told SARugbymag.co.za that there was plenty of excitement about the prospects for the future of the franchise.
‘In the past, there has perhaps been a perception that the Kings is a place for unwanted players from other franchises, or those who are heading towards the end of their careers. That’s changing. With a 74% shareholding, it’s given us absolute control, and while we will have the greatest respect for EP Rugby, we weren’t going to get involved without being able to make the big decisions.
‘Financially, as investors, we don’t want to lose money, but any surplus will go to improving the playing and coaching staff where required,’ he added. ‘Our ambition is for the Kings to be successful and eventually be in a position to compete for the Pro14 title in a realistic time frame.’
The formation of an academy could also once again serve as a platform to capture the prodigious talent pool in the Eastern Cape, while serving as a feeder system to the Kings and EP Rugby.
As the changes take place, the Kings are hoping to restructure and bolster their squad ahead of the 2019-20 Pro14 season, while incrementally improving results.
‘The Pro14 is a fantastic competition, and it’s no surprise that other South African Super Rugby sides have expressed an interest in it,’ Stear commented. ‘It’s a highly competitive league, and we are determined for the Kings to be successful so that it would be unthinkable not to get a new five-year deal [as participants in the tournament].’