After a dramatic week in which the Eastern Province Rugby Union was liquidated and the Kings were almost booted out of the Currie Cup, the team is still searching for a coach to lead them through this year’s competition.
With a mass exodus of players out of Nelson Mandela Bay after the Super Rugby series, officials were this week forced to scramble to get a team together so it can compete in its first Currie Cup match on Friday.
With just three players from the Kings’ Super Rugby team remaining, a host of players had to be borrowed from other provinces so that the Kings could meet their obligations despite the drama surrounding the rugby union.
The Eastern Province Rugby Union was liquidated on Thursday, after a business rescue plan failed and players dragged the union to court because their salaries have been outstanding for months.
Despite all this, the Kings will still play in this year’s Currie Cup, thanks to a R20 million donation from the Nelson Mandela Bay city council, aimed at rescuing rugby in the province.
Kings officials have said the possibility of the council changing hands in the local government elections will not affect the donation and they have been instructed to proceed.
While a head coach has still not been appointed, two assistant coaches who have been confirmed will work with the team this week.
After Robbie Kempson resigned as coach a few weeks ago, former Eastern Province and Cheetahs lock Barend Pieterse and former Kenya sevens and Blitzbokke assistant coach Vuyo Zangqa will be in control of the team.
In the meantime, the team has put together an interim team and, although a lot of the names will be unfamiliar to supporters, there is a lot of talent in the side. But with very little time left to prepare, the Kings won’t have an easy run in this year’s competition.
Players in the group who have already been signed include former Springbok Waylon Murray, who was released by the Sharks, as well as Springbok Sevens player Siviwe Soyizwapi and SA Under-20 fly half Lungelo Gosa.
Other players who weren’t getting a chance to play in their provinces, and who have now joined the Kings, include former Free State and Western Province hooker Neil Rautenbach, Sevens Bok Tshotsho Mbovane, Lions scrum half Ricky Schroeder, Sharks flank Christiaan de Bruin and former Bulls player Vincent Jobo.
The Kings play their first match of the Currie Cup against Boland, coached by Brent Janse van Rensburg.
Kings group (with former province/team in brackets): Justin Forwood (Bulls), Barend Potgieter (Sharks), Caylib Oosthuizen (Free State), Cullen Collopy (WP), Martin Bezuidenhout (Kings), Tiny van Wyk (WP), Mzuvukile Sofisa (EP), David Antoinites (UJ), Tazz Funani (Kings), Cornell Hess (Kings), Sebastian Ferreira (Newcastle Falcons), Vincent Jobo (Bulls), Henry Brown (EP), Christiaan de Bruin (Sharks), Josh Katzen (WP), Dirk Grobbelaar (Griffons), Ricky Schroeder (Lions), Jacques Fick (Durbell), Lungelo Gosa (SA U-20), Kobus Marais (Bulls), Pieter Steyn de Wet (Shimlas), Sampie Mastriet (Lions), Minhele Mtwetwe (UWC), Waylon Murray (Sharks), Berton Klaasen (WP), Siphumelele Msutwana (EP), JC Greyling (Namibia), Alcino Isaacs (Bulls), Tshotsho Mbovane (WP), Siviwe Soyizwapi (SA Sevens), Brandon Asher-Wood (Maties), Johan Tromp (Namibia), Ganfred May (Bulls), Neil Rautenbach (Cheetahs)