‘No lifeline’ for Kings players

Date published: March 1 2016

PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA - FEBRUARY 27: Elgar Watts of the Southern Kings during the 2016 Super Rugby match between Southern Kings and Cell C Sharks at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on February 27, 2016 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. (Photo by Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

A torrid Super Rugby season seems to be the Kings immediate future with poor preparation and financial woes casting a shadow over the union.

The Kings bowed down to the Sharks at home in a 43-8 demolition on Saturday, and the men from Port Elizabeth have a tough task ahead with the Chiefs, Crusaders and the Hurricanes their opponents in the coming rounds after their bye this weekend.

Revelations by former Sharks full-back SP Marais brought to light just how poor conditions at the Kings were, from nonexistant off-season preparation to unpaid salaries.

“It’s been the weirdest off-season I’ve ever been in," Marais told Sport24.

"I went from doing normal training with squads in off-seasons to having to go do my own thing at Virgin Active.

“When I got to the Kings we literally only met once as a group. That was the only time I met some of the guys from the group … it was amateur.

"I personally think they will do well the first three of four games but from there fatigue will kick in because they didn’t have an off-season whatsoever.

“I haven’t received a single cent at all in any way or form from the Kings.

“They were supposed to pay us our outstanding salaries and damages by January 31 and when January 31 came nothing happened, as per usual."

With 27 Super Rugby caps for the Sharks, Marais joined the Kings at the beginning of November last year, but has since cancelled his contract with the Eastern Province Rugby Union (EPRU) after not receiving a SARU contract.

“The Kings in no way or form ever contacted anybody or tried to help anybody at any time,” said Marais.

“There were only a few guys that received contracts from SARU for the Southern Kings and I wasn’t part of that group. It would have meant that I had to hang around there (PE) forever doing nothing. I haven’t been given any reason – I didn’t even receive a phone call saying that I’m not getting a contract.

"They only phoned the guys that they were giving a contract to, so I was completely left in the dark. There are about 18 guys still floating around PE looking for jobs … looking for income. We’ve been thrown into the deep end and now we have to swim.

"There is no lifeline for us, nobody helping us, we’ve all been left to fight for ourselves.”

The 27-year-old said that players are not to blame for the Kings' problems and believes that things could have been different had the Kings planned ahead.

"You can’t blame the players," he added.

"This whole thing comes from up above. The people will probably jump of the bandwagon and crucify the players, but the players had nothing to do with it. The biggest problem, I think, is mismanagement. The Kings have known for two years that they’re going to play Super Rugby.

"Why didn’t they start getting a sponsor two years ago? Why did they leave it until the end to find a sponsor? The Currie Cup was supposed to be used as a building block, but they never utilised it as a building block.

"They never in that whole process tried to get sponsorship; they left it until the last minute. The sponsors aren’t stupid … there’s a reason why nobody wants to sponsor the Kings.”

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