Former Kings flank CJ Velleman has opened up on his ‘heartbreak’ over seeing his boyhood team’s fall into liquidation. DYLAN JACK reports.
Velleman was just one of the 58 people who were left without a job after SA Rugby and the Eastern Province Rugby Union (EPRU) opted to place the insolvent franchise into voluntary liquidation to ‘secure the longer-term financial future of rugby in Eastern Province’.
The shareholders – 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, after the franchise pulled out of SA Rugby’s domestic competitions.
For Velleman, someone who has given most of his young life to Eastern Province rugby, the move came as a hammer blow.
The 25-year-old is as Eastern Province as a player can be, having grown up in Somerset East, attended Grey High and captained their 1st XV and having represented the province in just about every age group – from U13 through to U21.
Speaking to SARugbymag.co.za, Velleman explained how the players found out that they would not be participating in the upcoming Currie Cup competition.
‘I can’t give too much detail, because even we don’t even know what happened,’ Velleman said. ‘We were training really hard, the team was looking really good. It was a young squad, so it was going to be interesting to see what would have happened.
‘Then, [Kings chairman] Andre Rademan came in and told us on Tuesday that we were excluded from the Currie Cup. That was a massive knock, it was a massive blow. It was really disappointing. As far as I understand, the coaches themselves didn’t even know what was coming.
‘A few of the guys, like Bobby de Wee, had some really good opportunities to go overseas, but they actually decided to stay to try and build something at the Kings.
‘The financial implications started. We were told that we won’t be playing for a while so if we wanted to go home to save money, we could do that. Quite a few of us carried on grinding, hoping something would come from it.
‘Originally, I had signed a contract saying they were going to take 75% of my salary. I then got a call from my agent telling me that the Kings had just been liquidated. That was six days before payday, so it was kind of rough.’
Velleman, who has since joined Griquas on a short-term contract, said he is grateful that he has such a strong support system in his family and friends, who have helped him through a difficult period.
‘I have got an incredible support system. From a psychologist all the way down to my best mates and mum and dad. I am very blessed in that sense.
‘It is absolutely heartbreaking,’ Velleman added. ‘I grew up there. I have been playing Eastern Province rugby since I was 12 years old. I have been captaining the teams since I was 12. I absolutely love the place. I would love to go back there any time.’
Photo: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images