CAPE TOWN – The Western Province Rugby Union held an emergency meeting on Monday with their players to address an alleged “player transfer list”.
Over the weekend, it was reported that the WPRU had drawn up a list of 19 players whom they are willing to sell or loan either immediately or following the Currie Cup in an attempt to cut salary costs amid the union’s ongoing financial challenges.
It is understood that a number of the players mentioned weren’t even aware of the transfer list drawn up by WP chief executive Paul Zacks, director of rugby Gert Smal and high performance manager Greg Hechter.
The list is believed to include the names of hooker Scarra Ntubeni, lock and captain Chris van Zyl and utility back Craig Barry, and was reportedly sent to the Cheetahs, Kings, Pumas and Griquas.
Monday’s heated meeting was called in order for Zacks to address the players involved and, according to a reliable source, the incident has caused great unhappiness among players directly and indirectly affected – some of whom also feel that this is just another example of the issues that have surfaced under Zacks and president Thelo Wakefield’s reign.
They also questioned why certain officials travel with the team if they are cash-strapped to the extent of having to resort to cutting players from the squad.
The most recent issue comes only weeks after reports surfaced that Stormers assistant coach Paul Treu walked out of a review meeting as he felt that his input wasn’t valued by head coach Robbie Fleck and assistant coach Paul Feeney.
The union later announced that there would be a series of meetings to address the problems within the coaching structure.
A few weeks ago, there were also concerns that the union wouldn’t be able to pay player salaries and that their financial woes would hinder the signing of players on their radar, but salaries have since been paid.
The WP Currie Cup side are en route to France for a two-match tour before the competition kicks off next week, but this latest transfer drama will not have done their preparations any good.
In a statement issued on Monday evening by the WP Rugby Union, however, Zacks denied that the reports alluding to the “sale or clear-out” of some players.
“It is regrettable that the public has been presented with a factually incorrect and grossly misleading view of our confidential internal dealings with our senior player group,” Zacks said.
“We back our contracted players wholeheartedly, and all of those players who have contracts with WP Rugby for 2018 and beyond will all be honoured.
“However, we want to at all times ensure that we are looking after our players’ best interests, which for some of them – especially those coming off long-term injuries – means they may benefit from a loan spell with another franchise in order to get much needed game time and/or exposure to different international competitions.
“Our goal is to ensure a win-win for all parties, facilitating more game time for more players, whilst simultaneously benefiting SA Rugby as a whole.
“Any decisions we make about player movements will always consider both the interests of the individual player as well as the union, with players remaining contracted to WP Rugby,” he said.