WP rugby woes: legends speak out

2016-10-27 17:00
Corne Krige (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Iconic Newlands rugby figures have reacted with anger, more than surprise, over Sport24 revelations of financial and governance turmoil in WP Rugby.

We reported on Thursday that WP Rugby had projected to make a loss of more than R11-million this year, was fighting a potentially devastating legal battle over commercial rights - Aerios demands immediate payment of R72-million from them - and had also seen four independent directors resign citing concerns over transparency and administrative competence.

Declining gate and season-ticket sales, and unsold suites at the stadium, are also contributing to the bleak picture.

Corne Krige, the former Springbok and Stormers/WP captain and flank, said the woes at Newlands demonstrated that “ultimately, there are too many amateur administrators in the SA game”.

Krige, who led the Stormers to a home Super Rugby semi-final in 1999, said: “I think you will see a very similar picture with many of the other (provincial) unions … either very close to bankruptcy, or insolvent.

“We badly need to look at privatisation in this country: businessmen, proper businessmen, must be empowered to buy unions and then run them properly. Too many people just make their way (up the structures) from the club environment.

“People are running a multimillion-rand union, without a lot of experience.

“It’s very worrying (at Newlands) when you see such a decline in what you could once call the ‘guaranteed bucks’ -- from your season tickets, gate receipts, suites.

“People won’t renew their season tickets, which cost a lot of money, unless things change.

“It’s just not worth taking clients to a suite for a game when the crowd may be less than 10,000 in a large stadium.”

Krige said a link could be drawn between the financial troubles and recent mass exodus of big-name players from the WP fold: “Again, if top players leave, you will inevitably get fewer people coming to games.

“We’ve traditionally had the most loyal supporters in the history of Super Rugby; that is dwindling now.”

He believes South African rugby collectively is at its lowest point yet, but “probably not the lowest it is going to go, before things get any better”.

“The really big sponsors (of the past) are now lacking … don’t be surprised if SA Rugby also posts a massive loss this year.”

Krige said he was always reluctant to criticise unless he thought he could make a difference: “There are people prepared to get their hands dirty, but only if they sense a willingness for real change.”

Eddie Andrews, the Springbok tighthead prop who represented WP and/or the Stormers between 2000 and 2007, said he was saddened by circumstances at the union.

“As a player, regardless of whether you are ‘ex’ or current, ideally you would love to see the house being properly in order (at boardroom level) so that the focus can be more squarely on the playing side of things.”

Now the Mayco Member for Tourism, Events and Economic Development for the City of Cape Town, Andrews added: “Especially given the traditional strength of spectator support at Newlands, I would have thought WP would be on a better financial footing.”

Springbok loose forward Rob Louw, a traditionally outspoken player from the golden era of Jan “Bull” Pickard’s presidency -- featuring an unprecedented five Currie Cup titles in a row between 1982 and 1986 – tweeted soon after Sport24 published various revelations on Thursday (@roblouw6): “Yes, the gravy train, as I said!

Elaborating later, he added: “I saw this coming months ago – when we were bumped out of Super Rugby. But it is part of a broader picture.

“Generally, SA rugby is in a grim state of affairs. It is very perturbing for ex-players.

“Sponsors are suddenly not coming forward … another sad feature is the young guys who dream more of playing their rugby abroad.”

Louw said he was concerned by the flight of steely playing personnel out of Newlands:  “I feel sorry for our coaches, many of whom are not bad at all. But they lose the solid pros and are just having to (bring through) youngsters all the time.

“But I also get annoyed when quite ordinary players get signed from other unions. Who makes these core decisions?

“Maybe they don’t look locally enough, into club rugby. We still have such depth of talent in the Western Cape … Stellenbosch, Hammies, Durbell, Tygerberg, False Bay and so on.

“It is quite eye-opening that (WP) are struggling to stay afloat despite historically having the best fan base in Super Rugby.”

*Frank pundit and former Bok and WP No 8 Nick Mallett, once national coach and also director of rugby at Newlands at Newlands in the mid-2000s, is bound by an exclusivity clause with his SuperSport employers and said he could not comment.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    stormers  |  wp  |  corne krige  |  cape town  |  rugby

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