South Africa Rugby have assumed management control of the Isuzu Southern Kings in what they have described as their ‘last resort’ in an attempt to save the franchise. In a short statement, SA Rugby confirmed that they have taken back a 74% shareholding from the Greatest Rugby Company in the Whole Wide World (GRC).

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GRC had acquired a 74% shareholding in the franchise in January 2019, with minority shareholder EPRU retaining a 26% shareholding.

However, SA Rugby said they have been forced to take action after GRC failed to meet the financial commitments relating to the acquisition.

SA Rugby added that all staff and players of the franchise have been retained, with Rassie Erasmus, South Africa’s director of rugby, liaising with Kings director of rugby and interim coach, Robbie Kempson, on immediate team needs.

“I cannot stress enough how reluctant we are to resume control of the Isuzu Southern Kings,” said Mr Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby.

“It is our last resort and we are keen to explore ways to return to the shareholding to another’s hands, in conjunction with the EPRU, the minority shareholder, who have given the required approval to the decision.

“The next step is to appoint a new board to oversee the franchise’s affairs and ensure the team is match ready for when we are able to resume playing.”

SA Rugby has appointed a finance team to work with franchise administrators on ensuring salary payments are made and business needs are addressed.

The decision ensures the Isuzu Southern Kings will participate in PRO14, as well as any other competitions that may be established within the constraints of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.

“This was a decision we took with extreme reluctance and after allowing GRC considerable lee-way in which to meet the contractual commitments they made on the acquisition of the shareholding,” said Mr Alexander.

“We appreciated the vision and intentions of the GRC but unfortunately we are operating in an unforgiving business environment.”

SA Rugby previously stepped in to help the franchise in November 2015, taking control of the Kings when EPRU ran into financial trouble.

A decision on whether an administrator needed to be additionally appointed is due to be taken in the coming days.

The Kings currently sit rock bottom of Conference B of the Pro14, having won only one of their 13 fixtures before the competition was suspended in March.

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