Southern Kings board member Bantwini Matika was not afraid to speak his mind last month, reacting furiously to the development that former Springbok coach Nick Mallett would have a role in selecting the Kings new head coach.
The Kings have been without a head coach since they parted ways with Deon Davids and a number of high profile figures, such as Jake White, have been linked with the role.
Matika took to social media to express his unhappiness that Mallett would be involved in the process, calling the 62-year-old a “racist” and that he would “never support our transformation agenda”. Hde also alluded to what he claimed was “institutional racism in rugby” in his expletive-laden outburst.
The Kings, who are majority owned by The Greatest Rugby Company in the Whole Wide World, are now at an impasse over the controversy, with majority shareholders wanting Matika removed from the board and the Eastern Province Rugby Union (EPRU) declining to dismiss him. Matika also serves as the deputy president of the EPRU, further complicating the situation.
Kings chairperson Loyiso Dotwana issued a statement on Monday that read: “We called upon our partners and minority shareholders, the EP Rugby Union, to urgently deal with the unacceptable and destructive behaviour of its nominee to the Southern Kings board, Mr Bantwini Matika.
“I am making sure that when he gets a white voice in the left ear he must get a black voice on the right." https://t.co/z9LtnHIeci
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) June 29, 2019
“His actions over the past few days have brought the franchise’s name and company reputation into disrepute. We strongly disagree with the inflammatory, inaccurate and unsubstantiated statements expressed by Mr Matika.
“On Thursday of last week, the Greatest Rugby Company in the Whole Wide World (Pty) Ltd (GRC), the majority shareholder in the Southern Kings, sent a letter to the president of the EPRU requesting that they recall Mr Bantwini Matika from the board. The EPRU have declined that request.
“As this is a shareholder and not a board matter, the GRC has now called for a shareholders meeting and notice of such meeting will be issued Tuesday. The only item on the agenda will be Mr Matika’s continued directorship on the board of the franchise. As this is an EPRU issue we look forward to them playing a constructive role in resolving this matter.
“As we have stated from the start we are aiming to build a sustainable and professional team which can compete at an international level. We are playing against some of the best professional clubs in the world and need to significantly up our game to ensure that we are formidable competitors who play quality rugby.
“We took over a struggling organisation and are now working to turn this around so that we can develop a strong rugby team which this region can be proud of. We are operating the franchise in line with key business principles and are currently making good progress in appointing the right people into the right roles.
“Whilst we are doing everything possible to source the best available talent to strengthen the core base of the team, we are also balancing this up with high potential players within the current team and also other players yet to be recruited.
Statement by ISUZU Southern Kings Chairman, Loyiso Dotwana.
"We strongly disagree with the inflammatory, inaccurate and unsubstantiated statements expressed by Mr Matika."
Read more: https://t.co/mE7cSjkoOW pic.twitter.com/N0rGohmVQF
— Isuzu Southern Kings (@SouthernKingsSA) July 1, 2019
“We are exceptionally proud to be the first black owned and controlled rugby franchise in the country. The Eastern Cape is the home of black rugby and as such we remain fully committed to supporting the transformation of rugby. This is a journey we have embarked upon and we are dedicated to achieving our goals.
“Our team has been training since June and our anticipation is that the team will be well prepared by the time the PRO14 season resumes in September. Furthermore, in the coming weeks, we will be in a position to announce the full complement of coaching staff and contracted players.”
The Kings finished bottom of Conference B in the Guinness PRO14 last season, with just two wins from their 21 games. Now, despite new ownership, investment and more financial muscle to recruit players, this off-field controversy has marred what looked to be a positive off-season for the South African side.
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