The Eastern Cape is faced with another failed attempt of creating an elite rugby team.
The disbanding of the Southern Kings has dire effects on the team’s players and staff that are now jobless with no money to pay their debts.
Established in 2009, this team has seen British and Irish Lion Tours, Super Rugby and most recently the PRO14. Now, 11 years later, their former home – Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium – won’t be hosting rugby games again.
On August 25, the Southern Kings announced to their players that they would be pulled from all domestic competition to save their salaries.
It was a sacrifice the players had accepted with a heavy heart. Three weeks later, the liquidation announcement was made, not only leaving their pockets empty but also their dreams in tatters.
“I am very disappointed because I really enjoyed it at the Kings. I am not only disappointed about the money and that we not getting paid but more disappointed that I could only play one year of my three year contract. I’ve made life long friends here and I had great coaches who looked out for us. So it’s quite disappointing to know that I have to make another plan,” says a player.
For a lot of the Kings players, this liquidation has come as a shock.
“My first reaction was how? How did this happen? Because surely there is a person who handles finance on a daily basis just like I am on the rugby field everyday. It’s my job. Who didn’t do their job? How can they tell us six days before month end we are not getting paid? but regardless of that, its out of our control, there was nothing we could do about the situation and still like now there’s nothing I can do. I just can’t believe my time in PE has stopped so abruptly,” says Bobby de Wee, a representative of the players.
Coming from the SA Academy, Zingi Hela, was looking forward to his new venture at the Southern Kings in 2016. Little did he know that four years later, his entire life would be turned upside down.
Now with mortgage payments, car payments, school fees and living costs piling up, Hela is trying to figure out his future.
“We were done. I was done and I am sorry to say because my wife asked me Zingi what’s next? and I don’t know. It’s only now that my mind is coming together, trying to put the pieces together. To at least look at what insurances we have, and what they offer but the devastation is that the debit orders went of and now I’m literally sitting with overdrawn accounts,” says Hela.
Future looks bleak for Southern Kings rugby players: