Maverick McKeever 'not wanted' at Kings
NEWS: Jan de Koning reports on the protracted Eastern Province Kings saga, which has more plot twists than your average soap-opera.
While the EP Kings management is scrambling to put a team together for their opening Currie Cup match of the season - against the Boland Cavaliers in Port Elizabeth on Friday - another unwanted character is looming in the dark shadows.
Tony McKeever, the maverick former Chief Executive Officer of the Southern Spears, has emerged as one of the role players in what appears to be a new struggle for power in the embattled Eastern Cape region.
And rugby365 can reveal that the national controlling body, South Africa Rugby, has taken control of the EP Kings' Currie Cup management structures.
This all comes three days after EP Rugby (Pty) Ltd, the professional arm of the EP Rugby Union (and EP Kings), was liquidated in the Port Elizabeth High Court.
The EPRU earlier announced the withdrawal of their business rescue plan - after it emerged their backer Christopher Wishlade of Integrated Sport (who claimed he had ZAR100-million in sponsorship for them) was declared bankrupt last year and on at least one previous occasion.
Questions were raised about the ability of the EP Kings to field a team in the Currie Cup, to procure suitable players, coaching staff and a CEO to manage the affairs of the entity.
The EP Kings' scheduled First Round fixture against Griquas in Kimberley last Saturday was postponed.
However, on Monday it was confirmed that Charl Crous, the CEO of the Southern Kings, has been appointed in the same position for the EP Kings.
Crous, in an interview with rugby365, confirmed that the Southern Kings management had been "seconded" to the EP Kings.
He added that "90 percent" of the playing roster has been filled and that they should complete the rest by Tuesday.
"The players started training today [Monday] and we will play against Boland [on Friday]," Crous said.
He also revealed that the Southern Kings staff - with the exception of two members - will be involved in the EP Kings' Currie Cup campaign.
Southern Kings head coach Deon Davids has been replaced by one of his assistants, forwards coach Barend Pieterse, as the EP Kings head coach.
Southern Kings backline coach Mzwandile Stick is back with the Springboks as an 'attack coach' and he has been replaced by Vuyo Zangqa, a former Springbok Sevens player and BlitzBoks assistant coach.
While Crous was not willing to confirm names until the squad has been completed, media reports have listed a number of 'recruits'.
The most high profile names include four players who featured for the Southern Kings this year - Schalk Ferreira, Cornel Hess, Martin Bezuidenhout and Thys Basson - along with Mikey Willemse (from Western Province), Waylon Murray (Sharks), Barend Potgieter (Sharks), Christian du Bruin (Sharks), Kobus Marais (Bulls), Sampie Mastriet (Lions), Ricky Schroeder scrumhalf (Lions), Johan Tromp (Namibia) and Johan Greyling (Namibia).
However, along the positive news on Monday came another dark undertone - with confirmation that McKeever, who has made a history of starting up money-making projects, was attempting to work himself into a position of power in the Eastern Cape.
Both Crous and SA Rugby denied any knowledge of McKeever's latest venture - the 'Mandela Bay Rugby Project'.
However, sources claim that McKeever had meetings with ousted Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Danny Jordaan, SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux and Johann Mettler, the city manager of the Nelson Mandela Metropole.
Although details remain sketchy, Qondakele Sompondo - a spokesman for the Rugby Transformation Coalition - said his organisation does not support McKeever.
"It is both disrespectful and undermining to the rugby community of the Eastern Cape," Sompondo said.
"Tony [McKeever] went about it the wrong way, because he did not consult us at all.
"First, he came here as someone who was concerned about the plight of players. Now he sees an opportunity for self-enrichment by creating a company to run our rugby without us.
"That's completely out of line and he will not get away with it.
"As clubs, we will make sure this does not happen in our province.
"We endured pain with Tony during the [Southern] Spears [in 2006], which he ran to ground.
"Then Cheeky [Watson] came and the end result was the same.
"So why must we allow either of them to take charge again?
"If Tony was any good, how come he has not been used by anyone since his failed Spears project?
"We have enough capable people right here in Eastern Cape and we do not need him to help us deal with our problems - especially if he does it without us!
"If we allow Tony to do as he pleases here, then we will not have learnt our lessons from the failed Spears and Kings projects.
"What is also disturbing is to see is that our very own municipality's name is mentioned in this project.
"I can't see how our municipality will go and seek help somewhere else and not engage its own rugby community for advice when they want to intervene.
"It unfortunate that our desperate situation is now identified as a 'rugby carcass' and attracts just about every opportunistic vulture.
"We cannot allow this to happen when we have existing structures and clubs in place to deal with our problems.
"The clubs appointed SA Rugby to take over our administration and that's the only intervention we know and respect."
By Jan de Koning