Newlands: The post-season posers
OPINION: As the dust settles on a disjointed, yet satisfying, Currie Cup season, it is perhaps time to look at some of the posers facing one of the franchises.
Most of the unfavourable headlines in the past 12 months – certainly throughout 2020 – have swirled around Newlands.
If Western Province’s Currie Cup semifinal exit was the cause of much discontent and displeasure for Cape Town fans – at the very least an anticlimax in the way they performed in their last outing at Newlands – the boardroom rhubarbs remain a much bigger boil that is about to pop.
If you believe the WP brains trust, it is all under control.
Routinely you will hear – from Western Province Rugby Football Union President Zelt Marais and Ebrahim Rasool, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Western Province Professional Rugby (Pty) Ltd – they have the best ‘property portfolio’ of any union in the world and the most impressive playing roster.
However, given the events of the past year, it would be easier to believe a used car salesman than bank on the Newlands saga being settled amicably.
Given that the WPRFU and WPPR have ‘separated’ the powers and functions of the union and the company, there are two issues at play – future income streams for the company (Rasool’s baby) and the resolution of the Newlands stand-off (Marais’ predicament`).
Let’s start with a quick recap of the Newlands saga.
Having upset Remgro to the extent that their Stellenbosch benefactor walked away, they also reneged on a deal with Investec to develop Newlands (after heads of agreement had already been signed and a loan extended). That saw them turn to the Flyt Property group to get a loan to pay off the ZAR112-million they now owed their two former benefactors.
The Flyt-WPRFU marriage is now also on the rocks, with Flyt CEO Zane de Decker having gone public with his intention to claim ‘damages’ from WPRFU, over the latter’s decision to renege on the deal the two groups signed in June last year. De Decker threatened to “call up the secured loans” that the Flyt Group holds over the Newlands stadium and other properties.
That public spat is still ongoing, with the lawyers racking up the billable hours.
Speaking of lawyers. Not only have WPRFU walked away twice from previous benefactors and looks set to do it a third time, but they also dropped Smith Tabata Buchanan Boyes (the Blouberg-based company that represented them throughout the negotiations and finalisation of the term sheet and loan agreement with Flyt) like a hot potato. Korbers Inc, a legal firm operating out of Cape Town central, is now acting on behalf of the union in their spat with Flyt.
Then there is MVM saga. Marco V Masotti, the South African-born-and-bred American lawyer, was so fed up with the WPRFU shenanigans that he took his consortium and their money and promptly signed a deal with the Sharks.
Despite all this, the WPRFU President, Marais, insists that ‘all is well’ and they have done nothing untoward.
“Everything we have done to date is in the best interest of WP Rugby and to ensure that it remains a sustainable organization for many years to come,” was Marais’ response to @rugby365com, when asked about suggestions he might be held personally responsible for the losses and costs incurred in the Newlands saga.
Keep in mind 2021 is election year. Already there are many propagations of a pending boardroom stand-off between the President, Marais, and his deputy, Moneeb Levy. If the Cape Town grapevine is to be believed, the main protagonists will have Marais and recently re-elected executive member Ronald Bantom in the one camp, with Leevy and Rasool in the opposite corner.
While that epic saga continues to play itself out, Rasool is trying to keep afloat a company that has already been bankrupted once.
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Despite their impressive playing roster – which will remain in place till July – their Currie Cup campaign can only be described as ‘underwhelming’.
How do they turn this around in the next month, before the next competition gets underway?
The first order of business is the move to the Cape Town Stadium.
As the saying goes: ‘A change is as good as a holiday!’
Will the new environment revive and refresh the team? Will they be able to shed the Newlands baggage? Has the player contract uncertainty been resolved?
No matter how much they deny it, John Dobson and his coaching staff have been hamstrung by all the boardroom set-tos.
What assistance will they get from Rasool? What changes will/can Rasool implement?
There is an argument to be made in favour of Rasool, that he arrived at the height of the Newlands saga, in the middle of a pandemic lockdown and inherited a broken system.
However, he has had five months to settle in and has an ideal opportunity to implement any changes he may wish to forge.
Recent media dispatches suggested Rasool is courting a benefactor from Dubai in a desperate bid to retain the franchise’s horde of World Cup-winning Springboks.
There is no doubt the Cape Town outfit is in desperate need for ‘positive’ changes.
The next competition – be that the Franchise Cup (domestic) or Rainbow Cup (in Europe) – will indicate what progress has been made.
How will the executive powers take them forward? Will we see the same trudging performances? Is it all talk and no action?
Will it be much of the same – coequal plots, sub-plots, stand-offs, dramatic exits, underhanded tactics and perfidy?
Will we again see the main ingredient of any good drama: CONFLICT?
It is clear from the past year that the Newlands boardrooms were not congenial and serene environments.
Also worth reading …
WP’s loss is Sharks’ gain
REVEALED: WPRFU’s new benefactor
Second partner chooses Sharks over WP
Where will the money come from?
The big ‘split’ at Newlands
Masotti explains his exit
Flyt bomb drops on Newlands saga
Change of attorneys at heart of WPRFU about-turn
‘Miscommunication’ blamed for statement
Mystery of the missing sentence