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Zelt ally threatens SARU with 'criminal' charges

Insiders are not surprised and have long held the belief that disputatious, suspended Western Province Rugby Football Union President Zelt Marais was never going to go away quietly.


It has now emerged that, despite being suspended, along with the rest of the WPRFU executive, Marais is receiving and responding to correspondence as the union President.

Even more alarming, a close ally and a central figure in his now-defunct ‘War Room’, Philip Burns, has threatened to file a “formal criminal complaint” against the South African Rugby Union with the Serious Commercial Crimes Directorate – also known as the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation or HAWKS.

The DPCI targets organised crime, economic crime, corruption, and other serious crime.

In a strongly-worded letter to Marais – which @rugby365com has a copy of – Burns writes in his capacity as a ‘Non-Executive Director of WPPR’.

It is worth noting that Burns was included on the Western Province Professional Rugby (company) board of directors on the insistence of Marais.

The company board, just like the entire WPRFU executive, was suspended when SARU placed the WPRFU under administration in October last year.


Experienced former SARU CEO Rian Oberholzer was appointed as an administrator and assumed oversight of the union’s affairs.

This has not stopped Marais from taking pot-shots at SARU, resulting in a written warning from the national body and formal complaints by the union’s clubs against the disgraced President over his conduct.

This time it is Marais’ close ally, Burns, who came out with all guns blazing.

Burns hits out at SARU for failing to provide effective strategies, calling their efforts “a farce”.


“I am deeply concerned with the current administrative corporate governance practises more, particularly, with the current failings in the company law prerequisites that ought to apply to the company,” the letter states.

“The perception created- if one is to be intellectually honest- is one which places SARU at party to defraud the WPPR, inclusive of the WPRFU and its underlying clubs and administration entities.

“With the above in mind, I am duty-bound and legally obligated to register a formal criminal complaint with South African Police Services – Serious Commercial Crimes Directorate – documenting the numerous alleged indiscretions in this saga.”

The letter was sent to both Oberholzer and Marais.

(Continue below …)


Marais responds in his capacity as WPRFU President – a position he is suspended from – and appears to be responding on behalf of Oberholzer as well.

We acknowledge the letter and concerns raised,” Marais replies.

“Currently the Executive of WPRFU, together with the Administrator, is addressing these issues directly with SARU.”

Marais then seems to take another pot-shot at SARU.

“The current ruling made by SARU is problematic and is not addressing the issues and concerns.

“Please be aware we are taking all necessary steps to ensure that the current status of WPRFU will be revised to ensure that WPRFU could move forward and include all stakeholders in rectifying current and past issues.”


The Marais and Burns collaboration date back to 2019 – when Burns first submitted a ‘proposal’ that a consortium headed up by himself “implement various strategies” around the capitalisation of the WPRFU.

The motion was put forward, but knocked down by the executive.

The Burns strategy then resurfaced during the ‘war room’ period, before SARU placed the union under administration.


Also worth reading

SARU CEO ordered to pay back ZAR37-million
Zelt takes aim at SARU
Zelt and Jurie heading for rousing stand-off?
Clubs rounding up on Zelt … again
WPRFU: The rise and fall of a ‘war room’
SA Rugby places WPRFU under administration
WPRFU: Marais, McKeever accused of ‘lies and fabrications’
It is a ‘boardroom war’ at Newlands


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