The board of the Southern Kings has voluntarily withdrawn the team from participation in any planned domestic rugby competitions in 2020.
The players and staff were informed of the decision at 7h30 on Tuesday morning, following an urgent meeting of the board the afternoon before.
The decision was taken reluctantly in the face of hard, financial realities said Mr Andre Rademan, chairman of the Southern Kings board.
"Following several weeks of interrogation of the Kings' financial state of affairs we were left with a straightforward choice," said Mr Rademan.
"We could opt to field the Kings in the domestic competitions mooted by SA Rugby for the sport's post-lockdown resumption if we so wished.
"If we did so, it would require additional loans to the Kings or extra investment from the shareholders to the tune of R6.5m, which would add to the organisation's existing substantial debt.
"However, as there was no contractual requirement for the Kings to resume short-term participation in the Guinness PRO14 competition, because of air travel restrictions, and as the Kings had no other commercial commitments to honour, the most prudent decision was to withdraw.
“This may not be a popular decision but in the current circumstances it is the right decision.”
The decision was supported by the executive committee of the Eastern Province Rugby Union (EPRU) and SA Rugby – the two shareholders in the Kings company.
"This is obviously very disappointing news for the players and management who, like all rugby professionals, were desperate to resume playing,” said Mr Rademan. “But the board believed that further investment in 2020 with zero commercial return would be reckless in the extreme."
Mr Rademan said that with ongoing uncertainty about competition formats and travel restrictions into 2021, the board would now take time to reconsider its options and the on-going financial challenges.
"As a board we had been considering further short-term contracts to see the squad through to the end of the year," he said. "But it became apparent that we would, for want a better phrase, be throwing good money after bad in the current global environment.
"We now have time to consider what is the best way forward for rugby in the Eastern Province in this fluid and financially challenging environment."
Mr Rademan, who is also president of the EPRU, said further consultation would take place with the Kings staff in the coming weeks over the next steps for the team.
SA Rugby assumed management control of the Southern Kings, having taken back a 74% shareholding in the organisation, in partnership with the EPRU in June.
The move was made following the failure of the former majority shareholder (the Greatest Rugby Company in the Whole Wide World) to meet its financial commitments relating to the acquisition of the shareholding.
Southern Kings timeline:
Issued by SA Rugby Communications
Junior Springbok assistant coach Bafana Nhleko and his SA Schools counterparts wrapped up a productive series of Elite Player Development (EPD) webinars with schools coaches from across the country last Friday.
The aim of these webinars was to align SA Rugby’s structures with the schools, which seeks to ensure an effective pathway to the SA Schools and Junior Springbok teams in future.
Nhleko was joined by SA Schools coach Lance Sendin and SA Schools A coach Wessel du Plessis, as well as their respective assistant coaches, Cobus van Dyk and Katleho Lynch.
They participated in a string of webinars with the Under-16 and Under-18 SA Rugby Youth Week coaches and schools coaches in the last fortnight to outline the fundamental skills required at age-group international level.
The purpose of these presentations was to ensure that the players are well equipped with the necessary skills when they are selected for the SA Schools team, which in turn would contribute to successful SA Schools teams and later Junior Springbok sides.
With the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in the cancellation of all the EPD camps this year, the webinars offered the SA Rugby’s junior coaches the opportunity to share their blueprint with the schools coaches, while also equipping them to assist with holistic player development further down the rugby chain.
“We believe these webinars will assist in aligning our schools rugby structures with the needs at SA Schools and Junior Springbok level, and that will not only be beneficial to the teams, but to the players as individuals as well,” said SA Rugby Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus.
“The international game is different to inter-schools rugby, and with that the players require a different skill-set, so by sharing our SA Schools blueprint with the schools coaches we may be able to close that gap.
“This is particularly important from a preparation point of view when the players reach the SA Schools teams, as they play physically demanding matches at school on the Saturday and assemble in camp on Sunday only to play their first international on the Friday, so there is very little time to work on their skills.
“By aligning these structures and positional requirements, the SA Schools coaches will be able to spend more time working on their systems, which is vital if one considers that the teams face the likes of England, France and Ireland, who enter the Under-18 International Series after a Six Nations campaign.”
Erasmus added: “Another benefit of this initiative is that it will stretch over the Junior Springbok team a few years later, as that is the next step for these players when they finish school.
“I would like to thank Bafana, Lance, Wessel, Cobus and Katleho, as well as our EPD 2 manager, Herman Masimla, and Louis Koen, manager of High Performance Programmes for this fantastic initiative, and the schools coaches for their participation. I have no doubt that we will reap the rewards in the years to come.”
The areas covered in the player development category during the webinars included the physical, technical, tactical and mental requirements for players to advance to the SA Schools team, as well as the vital positional skills needed to compete successfully at junior international level.
The webinars contributed to a productive offering by SA Rugby’s High Performance Department during the national lockdown, which also included off-field technical engagement for players, nutritional workshops, strength and conditioning monitoring and Rugby Laws webinars and tests.
Issued by SA Rugby Communications
Tickets from as little as R100 for next year's British & Irish Lions tour will be available from 2 September following SA Rugby’s announcement of the prices and ballot process on Tuesday.
The organisers have struck a balance between pricing for the biggest sporting event to hit South Africa since the 2010 FIFA World Cup while making the matches around the country remain highly affordable.
The eight-match tour, which stretches across six cities over five weeks and kicks off in Cape Town on 3 July 2021, has tickets available for public sale with the prices designed to make them attractive to South African residents.
“The top priced tickets are comparable with what was charged 12 years ago when the Lions were last here,” said Jurie Roux, SA Rugby CEO.
“But what is very different is that we have introduced four tiers of pricing for all matches – unlike the once-price-fits-all approach last time around.
“We have provided a range of price points for the public and, for instance, a family of four will be able to watch a match against one of the franchise teams for R1 000 in total, and for as little as R400 for a match in PE or Nelspruit.
“This is a once-in-a-decade commercial opportunity and we won’t shy away from acknowledging that we have to maximise the commercial opportunity that the extraordinary demand offers. At the same time, we have been sensitive to the South African fans and have some very affordable prices to watch the best of our local teams take on the Lions.”
Ticket prices for matches against the DHL Stormers at Cape Town Stadium, the Cell C Sharks at Jonsson Kings Park and the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld range in price from R250 to R600.
Tickets for mid-week matches against a SA Invitational team in Port Elizabeth and against SA ‘A’ at Mbombela Stadium are even cheaper ranging from only R100 to R350.
The cheapest Test match ticket is R500 – less than the price of a ticket to a 2019 Springbok Test – and increases to R1 250 and R2 000 to the top-priced ticket of R3 000.
South Africa, as a territory, has the majority ticket allocation and South African residents will have access to an affordable ticket pricing tier structure.
“The British & Irish Lions are unique in that they visit South Africa only once every 12 years, and we look forward to welcoming their thousands of fans to some warm South African hospitality,” said Roux.
“This is the home of the Rugby World Cup champions, the Springboks, and the Lions will know they are in our den. More tickets will be available to home fans than to overseas fans – we want to meet them with an Army of Green to combat the Sea of Red.”
Roux said that it was critical for South Africans to note that there was only one route to secure tickets – by entering the ballot on www.lionstour2021.co.za.
He reiterated that tickets are not available at match venues, through provincial unions or at the usual retails outlets and if anyone answered an online advertisement for Lions tickets, they were in danger of being defrauded, exploited and ticketless.
South African residents who registered on the British & Irish Lions UK website would also miss their opportunity. South Africans are encouraged to the ticketing website, www.lionstour2021.co.za to ensure they are part of the support.
Roux said: “We have had large-scale interest through www.lionstour2021.co.za and they will all receive an email with a link to the ticket site once the ballot opens.
“Any other South African-based fan can register on the site now or when the ballot opens. The ballot closes at midnight on 16 September 2020, after which we expect all the publicly available tickets to be allocated. It is critical that if you want tickets for the tour you register on the site before 17 September 2020.”
Once registered, the process is as follows:
Roux said the ballot process was consistent with all global major sporting events and was the system used at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the 2019 Cricket World Cup and at many other major international sporting events.
“We know demand will massively outstrip supply – particularly for the Test matches,” he said.
“We chose the ballot system to allow everyone to get to the start line. It is a randomised, computerised selection system to ensure fairness, but people may be disappointed if they don’t register for the ballot.”
Hospitality packages are available for all matches – ranging in price from R2 495 (excl. VAT) for a midweek game to R8 995 (excl. VAT) for a Test match. Those interested should email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Similarly, tickets can be accessed as part of a tour travel package by contacting SA Rugby Travel on email@example.com or 021 525 2515.
Issued by SA Rugby Communications
SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux welcomed the news from the South African Government that rugby has been given the green light to return to the playing field, under certain conditions.
The news was gazetted by Mr Nathi Mthethwa, the Minister for Sports, Arts and Culture, on Thursday. It allows for a return to competitive action subject to compliance with measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The directions stipulate that contact training, and matches can be played in empty stadiums, with only limited people allowed to attend games as part of essential services to make these events possible and from within a “bio safe environment”.
“Since the start of this pandemic, we have been working hard at ensuring we get back on the field and we’ve kept the Government informed on our plans throughout the process,” said Roux.
“We are very grateful for the opportunity to move to the next phase of our return-to-play plans and will provide the Department with all the necessary information required, such as venues for matches, to ensure a smooth transition to competitive rugby.
“Having said that, our eight franchise teams that returned to the training field recently still need a few more weeks of preparation before they will be ready for matches, and from SA Rugby’s side we will assist them with whatever is necessary.
“At this stage, we hope to have our first matches by early to mid-September and our plans on the structure of the planned competition will be announced in due course, as we have various options to consider.”
The Vodacom Bulls, Emirates Lions, Cell C Sharks, DHL Stormers, Toyota Cheetahs, Southern Kings, Tafel Lager Griquas and Phakisa Pumas all started with non-contact training a few weeks ago.
The return to international competition is not permitted under the new regulations, but Roux said he understood the Government’s need to phase any return to normality.
“We know the World Rugby window for the Castle Lager Rugby Championship is only in November and December, so we’re hopeful that in due course the government will be in a position to further relax the restrictions,” said Roux.
“For now, it’s the most important thing is to ensure we get the action underway as we have many stakeholders, such as our broadcast partner, competition and team sponsors and our supporters, who are keen to see rugby again.”
Issued by SA Rugby Communications