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OPINION: Seeing through the #NEWLANDS smoke and mirrors

December used to be called ‘silly season’ in rugby – the time of year when cricket dominated the sport pages of publications and the most engaging rugby articles were about ‘transfers’.

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It seems, at least in the Western Cape, that silly season lasts 12 months of the year.

Recent reports would have it that we were in for another interminable period of trouble at the Western Province Rugby Football Union and the interrelated Newlands saga.

The source for the latest urban myth is the departure of WPRFU administrator Max Fuzani.

It was suggested the entire process was in jeopardy and more trouble was brewing.

However, it didn’t take long to see through the ‘smoke and mirrors’ and demystify the latest batch of narrating.

It has become unmistakably evident that the self-serving factions that undermined the union and its professional arm (WPPR (Pty) Ltd) in the past are still very active and courting the next ‘opportunity’.

For the record:

Fuzani’s contract as WPRFU administrator was only for six months.

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He alerted the South African Rugby Union in advance that he is returning to the office of the minister of Sport and Recreation, where he had previously been employed.

Given that the offices of SARU and WPRFU are closed from December through to early January, there was no need to pay a stand-in – given that any ‘administrative’ issues can be competently dealt with by Danny Jones, General Manager, WP Amateur Rugby.

With Wynand Claassen’s heritage crusade now finally dismissed and consigned to the history books, the sale of Newlands and the repayment of the outstanding debts of more than ZAR200-million to property company Flyt – for a loan made to WPRFU back in June of 2020 – can now proceed as originally planned.

Zane de Decker, the Chief Executive Officer of Flyt Property Investment, has bonds registered on all the WPRFU properties.

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He is reclaiming not just the loan amount, but escalating interest, a raising fee, damages and costs – which all add up and is putting the union into a deeper hole.

However, once normal business resumes in January, SARU – who placed WPRFU under administration in terms of Section 29.5 of the SARU Constitution in October 2021 – will be picked up by the interested parties.

With much of the groundwork done during the administrative stint of Rian Oberholzer – now CEO of SARU – the process should quickly run to its conclusion.

The entire administrative process does not impact the professional arm, WPPR (Pty) Ltd.

It was confirmed back in September that Red Disa Investments – led by Fynbos Ekwiteit and Ardagh Glass Packaging Africa, along with Marble Head Investments – and SARU are in the final stages of discussions for Red Disa to acquire a 74 percent stake in Western Province Professional Rugby.

That process is also expected to be concluded early in the new year – January or February.

None of this is really ‘news’ – despite what this week’s headlines suggested.

As I said earlier: It is truly ‘silly season’.

Don’t discount certain factions from sowing seeds of discord.

Already it has been suggested the latest ‘developments’ – read the departure of Fuzani – is to prolong the period of administration and ‘steal’ the union’s assets.

Of course, the clubs who voted in favour of the equity deal will also have to vote for the sale of Newlands once the final proposal is put on the table.

But expect some more ‘grapevine noises’ and plenty of ‘smoke and mirrors’ before then.

A smooth-running process is not in the interest of certain self-serving factions.

However, behind the scenes the work and boardroom discussions are ongoing and as was evident with how the Claassen’s heritage crusade was dealt with, the sale of Newlands will eventually run to a satisfactory conclusion.

As they say in the classics: ‘Watch this space’!

@king365ed
@rugby365com

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