Southern Kings have recalled an Argentine and French player from their touring squad in New Zealand as the South African Rugby Union investigates the Super Rugby newcomers for breaking its rules on foreign players.
The Kings said Tomas Leonardi and Virgile Lancome will return to Port Elizabeth and be replaced by two South Africans for the four-game tour of Australasia.
Kings president Cheeky Watson also travelled to New Zealand to talk to the players after the team was threatened with a caution, fine, suspension or even expulsion by SARU in its debut Super Rugby season if found guilty of fielding too many foreigners in a game against the Chiefs last week.
But Super Rugby chief Greg Peters said on Twitter that SARU did not have the authority to suspend or expel the Kings, as that would affect the whole three-country tournament and only a South African rule had allegedly been broken.
It leaves the Kings facing a warning or fine of up to 1 million rand ($A105,000).
“That (the suspension or expulsion of the Kings) can only be done by us and it is not our rules that have allegedly been breached,” Peters, the chief executive of Super 15 organiser SANZAR, tweeted.
Leonardi, fellow Argentine Nicolas Vergallo and New Zealander Hadleigh Parkes were in the Kings’ matchday squad for the home loss to the Chiefs on Friday and all played some part in the game.
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South African teams are allowed only two foreign players per game, according to contracts they sign with the national union.
The Kings play seven-time Super Rugby champions the Crusaders – the competition’s most successful team – on Saturday, while SARU chief executive Jurie Roux told South African media he hoped the investigation would be concluded next week.