Saru on back foot

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South African rugby faces a tor­rid 2016 as le­gal wran­gles, pos­si­ble on-field em­bar­rass­ment and the fall­out from last year’s dis­ap­point­ing World Cup threaten to en­gulf the game. Rev­e­la­tions con­tained in a re­port by au­dit­ing firm KPMG that SA Rugby Union (Saru) CEO Jurie Roux is al­legedly be­ing sued for R32 mil­lion by Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity have driven pres­i­dent Ore­gan Hoskins and other ex­ec­u­tives into a cor­ner.

It is claimed Roux un­law­fully di­verted R35 mil­lion worth of Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity funds to the in­sti­tu­tion’s rugby club while he was a fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer at the univer­sity.

In ad­di­tion, le­gal ac­tion against two East­ern Prov­ince rugby en­ti­ties, the East­ern Prov­ince Rugby Union and East­ern Prov­ince Rugby, who op­er­ate un­der the aus­pices of Saru, could have a knock-on ef­fect that might pre­vent the South­ern Kings from com­pet­ing in the forth­com­ing Su­per Rugby com­pe­ti­tion.

Rugby play­ers con­tracted by the Kings but sub­se­quently not favoured with con­tracts when Saru was forced to step in to bail out EP Rugby (when it be­came ap­par­ent that con­tin­ued claims of spon­sor­ship by pres­i­dent Cheeky Wat­son were nonex­is­tent) are tak­ing le­gal ac­tion.

A group of play­ers has al­ready won repa­ra­tion from the EP Rugby Union [EPRU] while the SA Rugby Play­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion has brought an ap­pli­ca­tion for the liq­ui­da­tion of EP Rugby (the union’s pro­fes­sional arm) in an ef­fort to get what’s ow­ing to them.

Craig Jes­sop of Port El­iz­a­beth at­tor­neys Brown, Braude & Vlok, who has been rep­re­sent­ing a group of 18 dis­af­fected play­ers since De­cem­ber, said: “[Be­cause of] the in­abil­ity of the play­ers to get as­sur­ances [with re­gard to their wages] and a guar­an­tee that they would play Su­per Rugby, we brought le­gal ac­tion to mit­i­gate the loss of their can­celled con­tracts as well as the fi­nan­cial losses they suf­fered.

“The mat­ter was re­ferred to ar­bi­tra­tion be­fore re­tired Judge Frank Kroon. The to­tal claim was about R18 mil­lion and the play­ers were awarded R12 mil­lion.

“This was di­vided into R5 mil­lion in ar­rears due on Jan­uary 31 [to­day] and R7 mil­lion for dam­ages payable in monthly in­stal­ments. If the pay­ment date is missed, the next step will be to seek liq­ui­da­tion of the EP Rugby Union.”

The union has not in­di­cated whether it has the funds to avoid the liq­ui­da­tion of its as­sets.

In an ef­fort to res­cue the re­gion’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in Su­per Rugby, Saru hived off the fran­chise into a new body, the South­ern Kings, and took over the ap­point­ment of coaches and the con­tract­ing of play­ers.

How­ever, play­ers who have not re­ceived con­tracts be­lieve this was done to evade the EPRU’s debts and void con­tracts en­tered into with play­ers. This may turn out to be il­le­gal.

Al­though as yet not on the ta­ble, play­ers may well de­cide to in­dict Saru, which could pre­vent the South­ern Kings from par­tic­i­pat­ing in the new 18-team Su­per Rugby com­pe­ti­tion that kicks off on Fe­bru­ary 26.

The Roux is­sue has been placed on the agenda for Saru’s ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee on Fri­day, and the mother union’s re­sponses will be closely watched.

Hoskins re­leased a state­ment on Fri­day that Roux’s orig­i­nal ap­point­ment in 2010 had been han­dled by a re­cruit­ment agency, but there is ev­i­dence to sug­gest that when the CEO’s con­tract was ex­tended in 2014, the pres­i­dent and other mem­bers of the ex­ec­u­tive were aware of the al­le­ga­tions about his time at Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity.

Against the back­drop of a poor World Cup last year be­cause of Heyneke Meyer’s coach­ing in­ad­e­quacy and lack of ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the im­per­a­tives of trans­for­ma­tion, Saru is run­ning into fur­ther stormy wa­ter.

There is the net­tle of ap­point­ing a uni­ver­sally ac­cept­able new Spring­bok coach (in March) and get­ting the pub­lic to ac­cept a com­pli­cated Su­per Rugby struc­ture that places South African sides at a dis­ad­van­tage.

On top of this, thanks to the feats of Kag­iso Rabada and Temba Bavuma, cricket has moved well ahead in the duel to win the hearts and minds of the peo­ple.

PHOTO: LUIGI BEN­NETT / BACKPAGEPIX

DIS­SOLVED

East­ern Prov­ince rugby has been put un­der Saru’s ad­min­is­tra­tion

PHOTO: WIL­LIAM MCIN­TOSH

BIG BOSS

Saru pres­i­dent Ore­gan Hoskins

PHOTO: JACO MARAIS

FIN­GERED Saru chief ex­ec­u­tive Jurie Roux

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