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Wading through the 'political mire' in WP Rugby

OPINION: The infamous contretemps in rugby circles in the Western Cape is redoubtable for its fractionalizing effect.


The affrays sometimes make the South African parliament look like a Sunday school picnic.

However, the most recent ebullitions raised some interesting questions – mainly whether there is an ongoing power struggle in the Western Province Rugby Football Union boardroom, or whether it is, in fact, a political tug-of-war.

For context, it is worth a brief revisit of the storyline of the financial struggles of the past two years.

Since Zelt Marais became the WPRFU President in November 2018, there has been as many plots and sub-plots as the most notorious soap opera.

Not all of his own doing, but certainly with the President at centre stage.

First Remgro was in, then out. Next Investec was the saviour and then the villain. Flyt/DreamWorld next took up the baton in the Newlands redevelopment race, with MVM Holdings set to run the final leg in regaining some lost lustre for this lumbering giant.


On the fringes of all these melodramatic developments are the power plays.

In the last week alone there were two threads – one that suggested the union (WPRFU) was ready to ‘sell’ a controlling share (of 51 percent) of the company, WP Rugby, to MVM Holdings and another that suggested the Marais camp is NOT willing to cede power to the Yanks because the US$6-million (just over ZAR100-million) is actually a loan and not an investment.

Now add in the scuttlebutt that there is an attempt to transform the union and company – with the most baroque whispers suggesting it is an attempt to rid the Cape Town outfit of all ‘white’ officials.

(Continue reading below … )

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Then there is the rumblings that at the heart of the horse-trading between WPRFU and MVM Holdings (a company fronted by Durban-born lawyer Marco Masotti) is the clause of who will wield the big stick in key issues – such as appointing coaches and recruiting players.

Another big hurdle is getting the clubs – owners of all the WPRFU assets and currently 100 percent shareholders of WP Rugby (the company) – to cede power to a foreign entity.

For good measure, there are rumblings that the sponsors and players are also piling on the pressure on the union for a ‘settlement’ with the Yanks.

However, if it is a ‘loan’ and not an ‘investment’ – as one dispatch suggested this week – why would WPRFU (or the clubs) give a controlling share to the Yanks, as a rival report claimed.

As it stands, the company (WP Rugby) is indebted to WPRFU – the sole shareholder of the company and the owner of all the assets, read property portfolio. That debt, more than ZAR70-million, is the result of advances by WPRFU to keep the company solvent.

Are you confused yet?

I’m sure the developments, statements and rumours in the next few weeks will succeed in baffling your brains.


Also worth reading …

Province President apologises for ‘misunderstanding’
WPRFU boss responds to ‘takeover bid’
‘Treasonous acts’ within WP Rugby
Full private equity: ‘It is a conversation SA unions must have’
Greatest Company becomes Greatest Flop?
Politics ‘killing’ the Kings
Financial mismanagement clips Falcons’ wings

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