The South African franchise have suspended playing activities for the rest of 2020

Future of Guinness Pro14 side Southern Kings in doubt

The future of Guinness Pro14 side Southern Kings is in doubt after the franchise announced they were withdrawing from any domestic competitions in South Africa for the rest of 2020.

SA Rugby has proposed running an all-South African competition – similar to the Super Rugby Aotearoa and AU tournaments – once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted and the sport can be played in the country. However, the Kings have decided to voluntarily withdraw from any such competition due to their financial difficulties.

As for the Pro14, neither the Kings nor the Cheetahs had been scheduled to play matches as the league restarted due to regulations in South Africa relating to the pandemic, and their future particpation in the cross-border competition is now uncertain.

The 2020-21 Pro14 season is likely to start in October with only the 12 Europe-based clubs taking part because of current travel restrictions.

A Pro14 statement read: “Due to on-going travel restrictions enforced by the South African government against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is not foreseen that any cross-border Guinness Pro14 games involving South Africa teams will take place until 2021. Pro14 Rugby remains in discussion with SA Rugby on when South African participation in the league can resume in the new year.”

The Kings have been struggling financillay for some time, with SA Rugby resuming control of the franchise in June after major shareholders Greatest Rugby Company in the Whole Wide World failed to meet its contractual commitments.

Andre Rademan, chairman of the Southern Kings board, said: “Following several weeks of interrogation of the Kings’ financial state of affairs we were left with a straightforward choice.

“We could opt to field the Kings in the domestic competitions mooted by SA Rugby for the sport’s post-lockdown resumption if we so wished.

“If we did so, it would require additional loans to the Kings or extra investment from the shareholders to the tune of R6.5m (£294,000), which would add to the organisation’s existing substantial debt.

“However, as there was no contractual requirement for the Kings to resume short-term participation in the Guinness Pro14 competition, because of air travel restrictions, and as the Kings had no other commercial commitments to honour, the most prudent decision was to withdraw.

“This may not be a popular decision but in the current circumstances it is the right decision.

“This is obviously very disappointing news for the players and management who, like all rugby professionals, were desperate to resume playing.

“But the board believed that further investment in 2020 with zero commercial return would be reckless in the extreme.”

Before the season was suspended due to the panedemic, the Kings had won only one of their 13 Pro14 matches and sat bottom of Conference B.

There have been suggestions that more South African franchises would join the Pro14 in the future, making the league the Pro18, but those plans now look in doubt too.

Can’t get to the shops? You can download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.

Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.