Robbi Kempson: Southern Kings players were livid

Southern Kings interim head coach Robbi Kempson during the Guinness Pro14 match between Connacht and Isuzu Southern Kings at the Sportsground on November 30, 2019 in Galway, Ireland.
Southern Kings interim head coach Robbi Kempson during the Guinness Pro14 match between Connacht and Isuzu Southern Kings at the Sportsground on November 30, 2019 in Galway, Ireland.
Image: Eoin Noonan/Gallo Images

Southern Kings director of rugby Robbi Kempson admits some of his players seethed after the plug was pulled on their season.

Due to financial constraints the Kings had to be withdrawn from the Pro14 as well as the local domestic competition that is set to kick off in the coming weeks.

While their contracts are being honoured some players have taken the news hard‚ some receiving counselling. Some were just angry.

“They were pretty angry as you can understand. A couple were very angry‚” Kempson admitted.

“The fact that they are still going to get paid is very important‚” said Kempson‚ who added that it was a prudent decision.

“Luckily we are not in a situation that we have to play to have sponsorship agreements adhered to. We have quite a young squad and some of the older players are quite upset because the younger guys won’t be able to show their goods. It is a tough one to handle.”

The Kings’ dubious finances apart‚ the Covid-19 pandemic has proved an additional spanner in the works and now Kempson has to balance keeping the players active against the spectre of the virus.

“The human factor is retained because it is more important than playing in the Currie Cup. If the guys weren’t remunerated it would have been a different story‚” he said.

Kempson is trying as far as possible to maintain a business as usual approach by keeping the players fit‚ while keeping them out of harm’s way. “We are going to carry on training the guys.

“I’ve had one-on-ones with all the players and staff. We’ll go into smaller groups and do specific one-on-one training from a conditioning and gym perspective.

“We will limit the contact‚ obviously‚ because we don’t want injuries but we also need to keep them match ready just in case they get an opportunity.”

With the domestic competition set to kick off in the next month or so would he want to see his players do battle in a potential warm-up match or two?

“I really don’t think so. I would not put my players at risk of picking up an injury in a warm-up game for another province‚” Kempson said.

“If a player gets injured then what? That will put us in a real predicament. There is a risk factor that I don’t think we can take.”

Having said that‚ Kempson stressed he will look for opportunities for some of his players to go on loan. “I’m trying to make sure our players get an opportunity wherever it might be‚ whether that is in South Africa or overseas.

“When they are not playing they can’t show their wares. It is important they have a career going forward. They need game time.”

They may not have a game but crucially they can still pay their bills. But for how long? “Whenever those contracts expire would be my guess. SA Rugby indicated they will honour all the contractual obligations. Most of our contracts run from July until June.”

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