Kings assistant coach Braam van Straaten has described the franchise’s liquidation as a ‘bombshell’ which has affected 52 families.
SA Rugby announced last month that the insolvent Southern Kings company had been placed in voluntary liquidation to secure the longer-term financial future of rugby in Eastern Province; the Kings’ second liquidation in less than five years.
The shareholders – the Eastern Province Rugby Union (EPRU) and SA Rugby – were stated to have taken the decision in the face of an accumulated deficit of R55 million, and with zero income in prospect for the remainder of 2020.
This came after the Kings pulled out of South Africa’s upcoming domestic competitions for financial reasons.
Speaking to RugbyRocks.com, former Springbok flyhalf Van Straaten – who had joined the Kings as a defence and kicking coach last year – explained that the staff and players were told of the news by EPRU president Andre Rademan just a few days before payday.
‘It came as a massive shock, because three weeks earlier we had been in a meeting with SA Rugby and André Rademan,’ Van Straaten said.
‘We were told that while the Kings would be pulled from any planned domestic competitions for 2020, they would honour our contracts. Three weeks later, we had this bombshell dropped on us. To me, it’s an injustice and unethical, and I can’t believe someone could do that to 52 families. We had been promised that if something like this were to happen, we would be given time.’
A number of the players and staff members are under financial pressure, with no income for the rest of the year during a Covid-19 affected economy where many have already had to take substantial pay cuts.
To highlight the Kings’ plight, Van Straaten made a video where he asked the public for donations through BackaBuddy.
‘It got an incredible response, and I’ll probably do another video to thank the people who shared it and made donations,’ he said. ‘The boys are in this situation through no fault of their own. They’ve been left behind enemy lines and we don’t do that in rugby – it’s an unwritten ethos that we look after each other. I can’t believe there are people who would do that, and they don’t take accountability for their actions. I’m a very principle-driven guy – right is right and wrong is wrong, and this is wrong.’
Van Straaten is currently assisting Kings director of rugby Robbie Kempson in helping some of the players find playing opportunities at other clubs.
‘A few of our players have got opportunities elsewhere, but all teams – in the southern and northern hemisphere – have already spent their budgets, so it’s been difficult for the rest of the boys,’ he added.