WP confident of averting player contract crisis
@rugby365com PROBE: Western Province Rugby Football Union President Zelt Marais is confident they have averted a mass exodus of senior players.
Recent reports suggested that verbal promises made to in-demand Springboks – like Siyamthanda Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Wilco Louw, Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe – have not yet resulted in written contracts.
It is believed agents are scrambling to get ‘offers’ in place for Monday, July 1 – when the contract hunting season formally opens.
Marais, speaking to @rugby365com, said they expect to make an announcement by Friday, despite the financial constraints facing the union.
“We have progressed a long way and, in my view, things are all sorted out,” he said, when asked about the reports that no contracts have been signed.
“If we, at WPRFU, don’t secure our players, South African rugby will fall apart.”
Only two Boks, Eben Etzebeth (to Toulon in France) and Damian de Allende (Wild Knights in Japan), are confirmed departures from Newlands.
“Our plans were always to retain the bulk of our players,” Marais said, adding: “We have tried to keep a very stable squad going forward.”
The WPRFU President admitted there are ‘financial constraints’ hampering the operations of the company, WP Rugby (Pty) Ltd (the professional arm).
WP Rugby is facing a loss of ZAR30-million, according to some reports, and more alarmingly are struggling to find the cash flow to pay staff salaries.
He suggested WPRFU is monitoring the situation and will step in if required.
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“I don’t want to go into the specifics [of the financial situation], but there is ongoing pressure and we are managing these things,” Marais told @rugby365com.
“It is indeed a challenge for the company and the professional arm.
“We, the [WPRFU] union, as the custodians of rugby, are faced with tough [financial] challenges. From our [WPRFU] side, as the main shareholder [of WP Rugby (Pty) Ltd] we are concerned and will do everything in our power to ensure that rugby is sustainable in the Western Cape for a very long time to come.”
Marais vehemently denied reports the WP Rugby CEO Paul Zacks has resigned or will depart Newlands prematurely.
“I have seen all these reports about Paul [Zacks leaving],” he said, adding: “I don’t know where it is coming from, who is orchestrating it.
“We know last year he wanted to go to the Bulls [applied for the position as CEO of the Blue Bulls Company]. We all know what transpired there,” he said of Zacks’ failed attempt to land a job at Loftus Versfeld.
“He gave me no indication today [Wednesday] about leaving,” Marais said of the Zacks rumours.
“I know all the CEOs [of the South African franchises] are under tremendous pressure. We have heard even the Sharks CEO [Gary Teichmann] is not renewing his contract when it expires in September.
“Rugby [in SA] is in a very difficult space at the moment. We are trying to sit down with all the rugby structures, including SA Rugby.
“We need to have a hard talk with the government, who need to put more money into rugby, especially the smaller franchises – who are eating into the income of the bigger franchises.”
In the background of the deteriorating financial hideosity, there are reports of a civil lawsuit in the protracted public spat between WPRFU officials Ronald Bantom and Jessie Claassen.
There are also concerns over the repayments of loans to Remgro and FNB – with mounting interest adding to the financial distresses.
A bond has been placed on the Newlands stadium as security for the Remgro loan (which started at ZAR44-million and is now said to be over ZAR50-million, with interest) and other Newlands properties have been bonded as security for the FNB loan (of more than ZAR20-million).
By Jan de Koning