Simon Borchardt

'52 families affected by Kings bombshell’

Assistant coach BRAAM VAN STRAATEN on why the liquidation of the Kings company came as a massive shock and how he's helping those affected by it.

SA Rugby announced on Saturday, 19 September that the Kings company would go into voluntary liquidation. When and how were the players, coaches and staff given the bad news?
At 8pm on the Friday, we all got a message that we had to be at the EPRU offices at 2pm on the Saturday. The meeting didn’t last long. EPRU president André Rademan said, ‘We’re liquidating the company and, so sorry to tell you, but you’re also not getting paid for the month [September].’ That was five or six days before payday.

Did it come as a shock or were you expecting it after the franchise’s recent financial problems?
It came as a massive shock, because three weeks earlier we had been in a meeting with SA Rugby and André Rademan. We were told that while the Kings would be pulled from any planned domestic competitions for 2020, they would honour our contracts. Three weeks later, we had this bombshell dropped on us. To me, it’s an injustice and unethical, and I can’t believe someone could do that to 52 families. We had been promised that if something like this were to happen, we would be given time.

How have you handled it personally?
Over the past 10 days, I’ve been in all the meetings and assisting Piet Heymans from SEU [Sports Employees Unite] to help create awareness and raise funds for the players and staff in dire need.

You posted a video on social media, in which you highlighted the Kings’ plight and asked for donations through BackaBuddy. Did it get some traction?
Yes, it got an incredible response, and I’ll probably do another video to thank the people who shared it and made donations. The boys are in this situation through no fault of their own. They’ve been left behind enemy lines and we don’t do that in rugby – it’s an unwritten ethos that we look after each other. I can’t believe there are people who would do that, and they don’t take accountability for their actions. I’m a very principle-driven guy – right is right and wrong is wrong, and this is wrong.

Have the Kings players, coaches and staff been offered counselling to help them deal with the situation and any mental health issues?
There’s been absolutely nothing.

Kings director of rugby Robbie Kempson said he’s trying to help players get signed by other teams. How difficult has that been at this stage of the season?
A few of our players have got opportunities elsewhere, but all teams – in the southern and northern hemisphere – have already spent their budgets, so it’s been difficult for the rest of the boys.

Are they still in Port Elizabeth?
Only one of our players is still in PE, the rest have returned to their families all around South Africa. So families have also had to carry the burden that was forced upon the players. I feel so sorry for the players, and the youngsters in particular – their dreams have been absolutely shattered.

Are you looking for coaching opportunities elsewhere?
I haven’t really thought about that, I’ve just been trying to assist everyone – 36 players and 16 staff. I’ll keep on driving it for as long as I need to.

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