Has Province saddled the wrong horse?
SPOTLIGHT: Fractious Western Province Rugby Football Union President Zelt Marais has become almost synonymous with controversy.
His tenure of just more than two years – Marais was elected as WPRFU President in November 2018 – has been marked by a series of boardroom dramas, questionable decisions and a troublesome management style.
This month again reports emerged of several high-profile officials falling foul of Marais.
Junaid Moerat, one of the most prominent members of the WPRFU executive, has been suspended for reportedly leaking information to the media’, while Moneeb Levy (his deputy president) and Peter Jooste (one of eight additional members on the executive) has been replaced as directors on the board of WP Professional Rugby (Pty) Ltd – the commercial arm of the union.
Marais has not responded to @rugby365com‘s requests for clarity and confirmation of these alarming reports.
Ebrahim Rasool, Chairman of the WPPR board, was unwilling to comment on the reports of the removal of Levy and Jooste.
“The matter related to the WPRFU representation on the Board of WPPR is entirely under the jurisdiction of the shareholder [WPRFU],” Rasool told @rugby365com, adding: “I cannot comment on it.”
Asked about Moerat – who was, reportedly, set to be unveiled as the interim CEO of the WPPR on the day he was suspended – Rasool also referred this website back to the union, WPRFU.
“Again, the suspension [of Moerat] is internal to WPRFU.”
The latest fall-out follows the dramatic development earlier this month when Marais was forced to backtrack on his verbalism regarding the infamous Newlands saga and all other WPRFU negotiations.
The WPPR board forced Marais to retract the comments he made in a virtual interview with @rugby365com contributor Angus Opperman.
Despite the directive from the WPPR board that Marais will no longer engage the media on contentious issues, Marais has been very vocal and even spoke out on a SAFM Podcast about Springbok captain Siyamthanda Kolisi parting ways with WP, the MVM fall-out and other boardroom issues.
* Listen to Zelt Marais speak to SAFM…
His behaviour caused a storm that could result in him being removed as President at a Special General Meeting on March 8 – when clubs plan to bring a ‘vote of no confidence’ in Marais.
Currently, the only points on the agenda for the meeting are:
* The move to the Cape Town Stadium
* Election of the vice-president (The position of vice-president became vacant when Spencer King resigned late last year.)
If the clubs garner enough support – they require 10 members to support the matter – the ‘vote of no confidence’ could be added.
Given Marais’ implacable behaviour, it raises an important question: ‘Who is advising Marais?’
@rugby365com has been told that Tony McKeever, the discredited former CEO of the now-defunct Southern Spears, has become a ‘close associate’ of Marais.
McKeever is a man with a history of failed ventures in the game.
This website reached out to Marais to ask him about the reported involvement of McKeever in the WPRFU structures.
Marais did not reply.
There are reports that McKeever is a ‘strategic advisor’ in the negotiations between WPRFU and French giants Stade Français – which could see the two form a partnership that will allow the Stormers to base themselves in Paris for their Rainbow Cup and Pro16 campaigns in Europe.
If the reports of McKeever’s involvement and association with Marais are true, it could perhaps explain the enigmatic conduct of the WPRFU boss.
McKeever was the CEO of the Southern Spears, which folded before playing a game – following his well-documented stand-off with SA Rugby in court. At one stage he was also listed as both CEO and a Director of ‘Super 20 Rugby World Series’ – a venture that has failed to produce a single match or register a single player after it was launched in 2006.
Then there is his role in introducing PRO Rugby (United States) owner Douglas Schoninger to SARU President Mark Alexander, with the view that PRO Rugby would invest in the Eastern Province and Southern Kings teams. However, other than a couple of informal meetings between Schoninger and Alexander in London, nothing came of this ‘proposal’ either. Schoninger’s PRO Rugby competition in the United States also lasted only one season.
Most recently McKeever was linked to the planned formation of an organisation called Mandela Bay Rugby. Despite placing advertisements for jobs back in 2017, Mandela Bay Rugby never progressed past building a website with no information or details – with only a link to ‘register’ as a player or a fan.
It would be sad if a long-standing official like Marais goes under as a result of poor advice – regardless of the source of said advice.
Also worth reading
Mandela Bay Rugby: Another failed venture?
‘Boardroom war’ at Newlands
Zelt Marais forced to backtrack
Zelt Marais in his own words
How the fans really feel
‘Stability’ and ‘integrity’ for WPPR
WP’s loss is Sharks’ gain
The big ‘split’ at Newlands
Masotti explains his exit
Flyt bomb drops on Newlands saga