Pay cuts still 'on the table' at cash-strapped WPRU
Cape Town - 2019 promises to be a testing year for the Stormers and the Western Province Rugby Union (WPRU).
And, like most problems in South Africa these days, money is the greatest cause for concern.
Results aside - and those are equally imperative given that coach Robbie Fleck is under pressure to deliver in his final contracted Super Rugby year.
Sport24 had it confirmed on Friday that management at the union would not be awarding bonuses in 2018, while a standard 5% pay increase - to be paid later this month - will be backdated to November 1.
There is also the R40 million Remgro debt outstanding, the ongoing multi-million Rand Aerios dispute and uncertainty surrounding what the future of the union looks like given the appointment of new president Zelt Marais and his proposed pay cuts moving forward.
Getting out of their current state of financial turmoil is the obvious priority for the union, but the effects of being there in the first place are already having an impact on what happens on the field.
Both Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Brits, linked with returns to the Stormers in the Super Rugby off-season, have signed with the Bulls instead while the news on Friday that Eben Etzebeth is Toulon-bound at the end of 2019 is a major blow to the Stormers beyond the upcoming campaign.
Not being able to compete for the signatures of quality players is a reality that looks to be impacting proceedings at Newlands already, and it is unlikely to improve as long as there are cash flow issues.
CEO Paul Zacks confirmed to Sport24 on Friday that the current climate had made it difficult and, in some instances, impossible to hand out performance bonuses, but that he had "fought hard" to secure the annual increases.
Marais, meanwhile, who was vocal on the need to consider pay cuts while campaigning for the presidency last month, says that nothing has been decided on as yet.
The proposal from the finance committee to cut the salaries of the higher earners moving forward is still very much on the table, but nothing will be decided on until all possibilities have been discussed at a boardroom level.
"We need to review our financial position and it's done on a corporate basis and a global level," Marais said.
"We need to be proactive in our planning and if you look at the last five years you will see that there has been a decline in income.
"You can't continue spending more than you're earning, otherwise it's a recipe for disaster. We need to be more prudent in what we do and it's more a proposal in how we balance our books."