WP Rugby entering crucial period

MVM Holdings’ investment in the Sharks has applied further pressure on Western Province to find their own investor as they enter a critical period in player retention, writes DYLAN JACK.

It has for some time been reported that a number of WP’s senior players have been hesitant to enter negotiations for new deals with the union until there is certainty about long-term sustainability on and off the field.

A tumultuous December saw Province first facing the news that Flyt Property Investment would be seeking ‘damages’ from the WPRFU over reneging on an agreement signed in June 2020, while American consortium MVM Holdings pulled out of negotiations around a prospective investment.

A few weeks later, it was confirmed that MVM would instead be investing in the Sharks, which is set to see Siya Kolisi – a high-profile Roc Nation representative – move to Durban.

READ: Kolisi coup a sign of things to come for Sharks

The Springbok captain isn’t the only one being linked with a move away. There is still interest in Pieter-Steph du Toit from France, even though WP are hopeful of convincing the 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year to stay, after he came close to leaving the union last year.

Meanwhile, the likes of Steven Kitshoff, Jaco Coetzee, Damian Willemse and Bongi Mbonambi are also the subjects of interest from clubs both domestic and abroad.

It is important to note here that during a press briefing in mid-December, Province coach John Dobson said productive talks had taken place and that the players had shown a willingness to stay.

‘We are enthused and excited by recent developments,’ he said. ‘We have had some tough times out there in the media, but as a playing group we know that are blessed – due to the goodwill of shareholders and the board – with a world-class team. We have not been in the business of acquiring [players] from outside, but we want to retain [the talent we have].

‘Under the chairman’s guidance, we’ve engaged with every single player and all have indicated a desire to stay – and that’s a great reflection on the union and franchise. This strategy of the board will give enormous confidence to the players to retain their futures here.’

The Western Province board has also drawn up a ‘practical and credible action plan’, which includes finding a new CEO and, importantly, an equity deal.

The latter is going to be a vital part of keeping any of their senior players in the Western Cape, especially given that both the Sharks and Vodacom Bulls are being backed by private ownership and could offer a viable alternative to any player looking for long-term security while also wanting to stay in South Africa.

With players currently under contract until the end of October 2021, WP bosses are hoping go through the next steps of negotiations to begin to formalise the various contract extensions, ultimately in the hope of retaining the ‘same squad going into 2022′ and beyond.

Already, though, it looks inevitable that they will be bidding farewell to at least a couple players, and it stands to reason that during the next few months Western Province will be going through a make-or-break period

Photo: Gallo Images

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Dylan Jack