Cape Town - Kings president Cheeky Watson claims the South African Rugby Union (SARU) urged them to sign Argentinians as they would not be considered as foreign players in Super Rugby.
SARU on Tuesday announced it has established an investigation
into a suspected breach of its Super Rugby participation agreement by the Kings. Jurie Roux
, CEO of SARU, contacted Watson to advise him of the inquiry and also to caution him against any potential breaches.
In the event of a breach being proved there is a wide range of sanctions available, starting from a caution to a maximum fine of R1m or a recommendation to the general council to suspend or expel the offending organisation.
This comes after the Kings fielded three foreign players in their 35-24 Super Rugby loss to the Chiefs last Friday.
Captain Darron Nell was injured in the warm-up prior to the game, which saw Argentine loose forward Tomás Leonardi join countryman Nicolas Vergallo on the bench. New Zealander Hadleigh Parkes started at inside centre, which meant the Kings fielded three foreign players in their squad - one more than the two allowed by SARU.
However, via a statement released
to the media on Tuesday, Watson said the Kings thought they were allowed to field their two Argentine players as SARU did not regard them as foreigners.
“In the process leading up to the signing of foreign players last year, we were led to believe and even encouraged to sign Argentinian players - who currently participate in the Vodacom Cup as (the) Pampas - with the understanding that they would not be considered as foreign players, in the same way as Daniel Adongo, who is from Kenya, is not considered a foreign player," said Watson.
“That being said, the sanctions which are being considered against the Southern Kings, as per the statement issued by SARU, have been clearly conveyed to me."
Watson also lamented all the negativity regarding the Kings' inclusion in Super Rugby for the first time this year.
“I am on record as having clearly stated that our treatment and entrance into Super Rugby, and the entire process to date, has disadvantaged us tremendously.
“However, no-one can dispute the fact that we are the first of the Super Rugby franchises added to the competition to have won our first game. We have also had a record of over 100 000 spectators through the gates of Nelson Mandela
Bay stadium in our first three home games.
“We have proven in the last three games that we have played, by the attendance and the support of the spectators that we will fight and we will show our true colours as our emblem emblazons, the spear and the shield.
“As Winston Churchill once said, 'We shall never surrender'".
The Kings are currently in New Zealand preparing to face seven-time champions, the Crusaders, in Christchurch on Saturday (kick-off is at 08:35 SA time).Kings' squad for their Australasian tour:
Andries Strauss, Bandise Maku
, Cornell du Preez, Daniel Adongo, David Bulbring, Demetri Catrakilis
, Elric van Vuuren, George Whitehead, Grant Kemp, Hadleigh Parkes, Jaco Engels
, Vleis Engelbrecht, Hannes Franklin, Kevin Buys, Marcello Sampson, Nicolas Vergallo, Ronnie Cooke, Rynier Bernardo, Schalk Ferreira, Sergeal Petersen
, Shaun Venter, Steven Sykes, Tomas Leonardi, Virgile Lacombe, Waylon Murray
, Wimpie van der Walt
Darron Nell (calf), SP Marais (knee) and Luke Watson
(throat) stayed behind due to injuries.