SARU steps in to take charge of Southern Kings

(Photo by Richard Huggard/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The South African Rugby Union has taken control of the Southern Kings franchise ahead of their return to Super Rugby.

In a statement released on Tuesday, SARU said it had stepped in after the Eastern Province Rugby Union asked it for assistance. SARU agreed to help "as a result of the on-going cash flow problems at the Union".

"We gave the Kings as long as possible to resolve their issues through their own efforts but the point had been reached where they could wait no longer," said Oregan Hoskins, president of SARU. "It is a decision we have had to take reluctantly but it is now 102 days until Vodacom Super Rugby moves into a new era with new teams and new nations taking part and we collectively agreed we could not allow South Africa's new entrant to be under-prepared."

Issues about unpaid wages first surfaced in July, and Kings players were reported to have gone on strike when similar problems arose in August. Overdue payments were finally made, but the problems resurfaced and the South African Rugby Players Association issued a written 10-day notice for the Kings to pay outstanding salaries or face action. SARPA spokesperson Nyaniso Sam confirmed to SA Rugby Magazine that the notice lapsed last Tuesday and some players have since already left the Kings including centre Tim Whitehead.

SARU has now stepped in to help run the franchise saying its "focus is on sorting out the finances and identifying the playing and coaching needs for Vodacom Super Rugby participation".

Jurie Roux, SARU CEO, said: "We have already had conversations around off-field and on-field preparations but I don't want to mislead anyone, there is still much to do.

"For the moment we will be working behind the scenes to sort out the various issues that we need to address. In the meantime we would thank the rugby fans of Port Elizabeth and the Eastern Cape for their patience and to have just a little more while we finalise those plans. I hope that we will be able to reveal the new management processes of the Kings and other details in a week or two. For the moment, our focus is on sorting out the finances and identifying the playing and coaching needs for Vodacom Super Rugby participation."

The Kings begin their 2016 Super Rugby season on Feb. 27 against the Sharks.