The South African Rugby Union (SARU) on Wednesday disclosed the first details of a new-look Southern Kings franchise to participate in next season’s expanded Vodacom Super Rugby competition.
The highly-rated Deon Davids – currently coach of the SWD Academy – was named as head coach of a planned 42-player squad, of which around one half are expected to come from the existing Eastern Province Kings squad.
The Southern Kings team will be augmented by consultant coaches from the SARU mobi-unit while the financial affairs will be handled by the SARU Chief Financial Officer, Basil Haddad. Match-day eventing at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium will be handled by stadium operators, Access Management.
“I’d like to start by thanking the players and staff of the Kings, as well as the people of the Eastern Cape for their patience while we have been working as hard as we can to put a workable plan into place,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of SARU.
“We are unable to go into all the player details right now as we still have to confirm some contracts and tie up loan arrangements but, considering when we started and from what base, I am very pleased with where we have come.
“I believe we are putting together a more than competent squad that will not only be representative of the region but coincidentally meets the targets of our Strategic Transformation Plan four years ahead of schedule.
“The squad we have identified will have around 50% black players while the management team is more than 50% black. Our Rugby Department has picked the best available talent.”
SARU has worked with the South African Rugby Players’ Association (SARPA) in communicating the plans and expectations with the Kings players.
Roux said that the players and management would be paid next week although the position of players not contracted to the Southern Kings by SARU remained a question to be resolved by the EPRU.
New head coach, Deon Davids, will be assisted by Mzwandile Stick (backs coach), Barend Pieterse (forwards coach) and Nadus Niewoudt (conditioning coach) while Zingi Hela – the manager of the Border Academy – had been appointed team manager. The medical team is Dr Konrad von Hagen and physiotherapist, Kim Naidoo.
Roux said: “It is a slimmed down coaching team but it will be ably supported by the expertise we have in our mobi-unit and other SARU resources to give them every chance of flying the Kings’ flag with pride.
“Next week will be spent on medical, administration and logistical planning before the players break up and work on individualised fitness programmes before returning on 4 January. We have already earmarked some warm-up matches against local opposition in January so we believe that on-field affairs are well in hand.”
Roux said that he hoped to confirm two new sponsorships in the New Year that would assist in funding the new-look Southern Kings.
Cheeky Watson, president of the EPRU, said: “We would like to thank SARU for their assistance in this regard and can’t wait to work with them on this exciting venture. We’re fully committed to assisting SARU in making a success of the Southern Kings in Vodacom Super Rugby next year.”
Before you rejoice remember this: The six Vodacom Super Rugby franchises are owned by SARU and awarded to host unions at their discretion. In the case of the Southern Kings it is now being hosted at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and is being run as a separate entity to the Eastern Province Rugby Union or the EP Kings over whose affairs or operations SARU has no bearing.
So, the EPRU contracted staff and players are still in the same sinking ship.