Super Rugby

Marais : Joining Kings is lowest point of my career




Former Sharks fullback SP Marais says that joining the Eastern Province Rugby Union to play for the Southern Kings has led to him experiencing the lowest point in his career.

The EPRU ran out of money last year and are rumoured to be in debt for as much as ZAR115 million so the South African Rugby Union (SARU) stepped in with an injection of cash which has allowed them to field a Super Rugby team this season.

Marais was not one of the players that was selected to play Super Rugby in the new Southern Kings Super Rugby squad even though he had signed with EPRU and has 27 Super Rugby caps from his time with the Sharks.

The fullback has now had to move back to Durban and has been recovering from a torn meniscus and had to use the Sharks medical facilities outside of their own training times to regain his fitness.

Marais signed in June last year to play for the Kings from November 1, 2015 and was initially seen as one of the side’s major signings for their return to Super Rugby. To date Marais says that he has received a cent from the Kings – and he doesn’t think he ever will.

He said that the Kings’ Super Rugby pre-season preparations were “amateur” and said that he and other players were forced to train themselves in a local gym on their own accord as there was no training taking place.

Marais said that when SARU came in with offers for a selected group of players to play Super Rugby and was on the list he felt he had been “thrown to the dogs”.

Marais had to get himself out of his contract with the Kings and EPRU and says that he is not holding his breath waiting for the money he is owed. This has led him to reconsider whether he wants to continue playing.

“This is by far the lowest and darkest point of my career. I’ve even considered hanging up my boots,” Marais told Sport24.

“I didn’t feel that it was worth it anymore. It’s probably been the toughest mental test that I’ve ever had to go through.

“At the end of the day you feel like giving up because your career is in the hands of someone else.

“I had nowhere to go, nowhere to be. I was on the verge of literally hanging up my boots. I honestly considered it … I even spoke to my parents about it, because what’s left? What can you do?”

Marais said that he wanted to get out of his contract before it officially started once the financial troubles plaguing the union became public knowlege.

“There were a lot of empty promises made to me. I believed the promises and then ended up getting into the situation that I am in now,” he said.

“I wanted to get out of my contract, but they assured me a couple of times that the money would be there from November. Then on November 1 they said that in the next two weeks everything would be sorted out. Then from there on it just snowballed into coaches and managers leaving.”

“It’s been the weirdest off-season I’ve ever been in. I went from doing normal training with squads in off-seasons to having to go do my own thing at Virgin Active,” said Marais.

“When I got to the Kings we literally only met once as a group. That was the only time I met some of the guys from the group … it was amateur.

“The Kings in no way or form ever contacted anybody or tried to help anybody at any time.”

Marais said that when the new contracts started appearing he was not contacted by anyone from the Kings or SARU but somehow it was decided that he would not be given a contract.

Marais says he was never contacted by anybody at the Kings or at SARU when it was decided that he would not be given a SARU contract.

“There were only a few guys that contracts from SARU for the Southern Kings and I wasn’t part of that group. It would have meant that I had to hang around there (PE) forever doing nothing,” he said.

“I haven’t been given any reason. I didn’t even receive a phone call saying that I’m not getting a contract. They only phoned the guys that they were giving a contract to, so I was completely left in the dark.

“There are about 18 guys still floating around PE looking for jobs … looking for income. We’ve been thrown into the deep end and now we have to swim. There is no life-line for us, nobody helping us. We’ve all been left to fight for ourselves.”

Marais says the he has not been paid for November, December and January salaries and as part of his settlement agreement with the EPRU he is owed an additional five months salary. Whether he actually sees that money is doubtful.

“They were supposed to pay us our outstanding salaries and damages by January 31 and when January 31 came nothing happened, as per usual,” said Marais.

“Realistically I don’t think we’ll get a cent. I hope we do, but I don’t think there is much hope. We’ve been made so many empty promises that you can’t believe a word that comes out of their mouths. Hopefully something comes out of the liquidation hearing on March 10 and then we’ll have some kind of resolution.”

Marais blames EPRU president Cheeky Watson for the way that the players have been treated.

“I don’t think Cheeky realises what he’s done to players like us, and that’s just me saying it from my side,” said Marais.

“There are brilliant players like Tim Whitehead who also have nowhere to play. Our careers have been put on hold thanks to him and there’s no consideration for what he’s done to us.

“He’s basically just a selfish person just worrying about himself.

“We’ve been thrown to the dogs.”

“I haven’t received a single cent at all in any way or form from the Kings,” said Marais.

“No phone-call or anything. It cost me almost R20 000 to move everything from here (Durban) back to PE, and then I’m paying rent and stuff like that and there was no help at all.”

Marais has questioned how the Kings went wrong as they knew in 2013 that they would be back in Super Rugby.

“The biggest problem, I think, is mismanagement. The Kings have known for two years that they’re going to play Super Rugby. Why didn’t they start getting a sponsor two years ago? Why did they leave it until the end to find a sponsor?

“The Currie Cup was supposed to be used as a building block, but they never utilised it as a building block. They never in that whole process tried to get sponsorship; they left it until the last minute. The sponsors aren’t stupid … there’s a reason why nobody wants to sponsor the Kings.”

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