Kings boss not stepping down

Date published: November 18 2015

Despite the financial crisis at the Southern Kings, the franchise's boss Cheeky Watson said he has no intention of stepping down from his position.

Watson, who is also the president of Eastern Province Rugby, held an open and frank media conference at the union's offices in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday.

The Kings haven't paid their players and officials' salaries for October.

“This has never been about Cheeky Watson, it is about the Kings, it has always been about the Kings,” said Watson.

Watson added it was important to take note of the press release from SA Rugby issued on Tuesday.

“There has always been a Plan B; I put the call in to SARU to come and bring stability, so that we can stop haemorrhaging players and focus on our preparations for Super Rugby,” he added.

Watson said he was constantly engaging with SA Rugby, including South African Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins and that the details around the implementation of the assistance still needed to be fleshed out.

“The cash flow crisis we have experienced is like a Greek tragedy. We want to thank SARU for stepping in to assist and we welcome whatever contributions they bring,” he added.

Watson said part of the intervention envisioned was to have members of the SARU mobi-unit come down to assist in support roles and bolster the Kings coaching staff.

Watson also confirmed the appointment of Brent Janse van Rensburg as the head coach of the Southern Kings for the 2016 season.

Addressing the issue of non-payment, Watson said that the junior team players had been paid their salaries today, but that the senior players and staff were still owed.

“The funding for the junior players comes from broadcasting rights received by the union from SA Rugby,” he explained.

Addressing the loss of five senior players, four of whom are of colour, due to the current financial crisis and non-payment at the union, Watson said it was never a good thing to lose players.

“One is never happy to lose any players,” he said.

Watson revealed he had already been in discussions with some of the other unions around gaining access to fringe players on loan to the union ahead of the tournament.

“Unions have indicated that they will make fringe players available," he added.

"What I have found is that given the opportunity, these players will rise to the occasion."

Watson is confident that there was still enough time to get a team together ahead of the Super Rugby tournament next year.

“It all depends on what players we can get, but all players on loan will be up to speed on conditioning,” he said.

Asked if he would step down following the controversy around the sponsorship that has to date not materialised, Watson said he had no intention of doing so, but repeated that the position was never about him.

Pushed about a possible vote of no confidence being sought against him by certain club structures, Watson said: “I’m not holding onto this position. If someone wants to step in, by all means,” he said.

Watsonis still confident that the funding from the R200 million (£22 million) sponsorship would materialise, but said he did not want to commit to any new timelines.

“I have already broken every timeline given. I am nervous to come up with another,” he said.

Asked why business was so reluctant to invest in EP Rugby, Watson said he was not sure, but that this was an ongoing problem that had existed for all the years that he has been involved in rugby since 1976.

Asked what he would say to the Kings supporters who were losing faith, Watson said there was a difference between supporters and fans and that supporters stayed through the bad times as well as the good.

“We have had phenomenal support in the past, breaking records in both our debut super rugby season and before that at the promotion/relegation match against the Pumas in 2010, that saw a sold out stadium,” he added.

Watson said the best way that supporters could assist the Kings was to get bums on seats at the stadium next year and to buy replica apparel.

“There is so much negativity as a whole, we need to get behind the city and our sports teams, regardless of who is mayor or president, we need to build up and be positive,” he said.