The EP Kings staged a minor protest in their Currie Cup match against the Blue Bulls on Friday evening wearing white armbands in solidarity with the coaching staff and players that have not been paid salaries for a month.
Kings captain Tim Whitehead said the match-day 22 decided on the gesture on Thursday with the non-payment of players’ salaries being a constant issue this year.
“The 22-man playing squad unanimously decided as a group to wear white armbands for this match to signify our support for our coaching staff and management and the non-playing squad back home that is still to be paid at the Kings,” Whitehead said following their 48-27 defeat to the Bulls.
“It is in response to the non-payment of our management and players back home’s salaries for the last month.”
Last month the players were finally compensated after the cash-strapped union was unable to pay its players in recent months.
The Kings seemed to put the sorry saga behind them and have been performing admirably until the issue came to the fore once again this week.
The Blue Bulls have one hand on a home semi-final following their 48-27 bonus-point victory over the EP Kings in Pretoria on Friday evening.
The home side turned in a characteristic second half surge to get them over the line scoring five of their seven tries in the final 40 minutes of the encounter.
The Bulls remain in second place on the log and opened a four-point lead over the third-placed Western Province with one match left in the league phase of the competition.
It was far from a polished performance as the home side seemed to revert to their old ways of trying to bully the Kings up front, but the visitors’ pack would have none of it.
Poor defence by the Bulls and a gutsy display by the Eastern Cape side saw the Kings go into the half-time break with both teams scoring a brace of tries in the first stanza.
Bulls flyhalf Tian Schoeman and Kings fullback Scott van Breda exchanged penalties in the opening minutes of the match.
The Kings claimed the first five-pointer of the night when they countered from a turnover inside their 22 where Sylvian Mahuza stepped past and pierced the defence with Tim Whitehead finishing and Van Breda converting.
The hosts bounced back immediately with flank Lappies Labuschagne scoring from the back of a driving maul before adding his second on the half-hour mark.
His second came courtesy of a break by Arno Botha, who offloaded to his captain for the try which Schoeman converted to give them a seven-point lead.
Van Breda narrowed the gap with a penalty conversion in the 36th minute before Kings scrumhalf Enrico Acker beat Marcel van der Merwe with some fancy footwork with Elgar Watts scoring to see the visitors enjoy a narrow three-point lead going into the break.
The Bulls got the rub of the green in the second half with the Kings reduced to 14 men when replacement hooker Edgar Marutlulle received a yellow card for repeated offences.
The home side capitalised immediately when Dries Swanepoel picked and went for the line after the Bulls set up numerous phases.
Six minutes later the Bulls scored again when Botha popped the ball to Francois Hougaard from the back of the scrum.
The nippy scrumhalf danced his way out of danger darting for the line from inside his own half to score the fourth and bonus-point try.
Hougaard again featured prominently in the next try when he made the initial break before debutant Ruan Steenkamp bounced a tackle before passing back to the scrumhalf.
The Springbok halfback juggled the ball but managed to get it under control before he got stopped short of the line with prop Werner Kruger scoring off the hard work done by Hougaard.
With 10 minutes left in the match Steenkamp added a try to his magical debut scoring from the back of a driving maul.
The Kings earned a brief respite with JP du Plessis scoring in the left-hand corner before the Bulls’ Jacques du Plessis score his side’s seventh try of the evening a minute from time.
- Vodacom Blue Bulls: Tries: Lappies Labuschagne, Arno Botha, Dries Swanepoel, Francois Hougaard, Werner Kruger, Ruan Steenkamp, Jacques du Plessis. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (5). Penalties: Schoeman
- EP Kings: Tries: Tim Whitehead, Elgar Watts, JP du Plessis. Conversions: Scott van Breda (3). Penalties: Van Breda (2)
15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 De Wet Kruger, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 Francois Uys (captain), 4 Reniel Hugo, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Neil Rautenbach, 1 Teunis Nieuwoudt
Substitutes: 16 Chase Morison, 17 BG Uys, 18 Willem Serfontein, 19 Freddy Ngoza, 20 Ruan van Rensburg, 21 Niel Marais, 22 AJ Coertzen
Eastern Province Kings
15 Scott van Breda, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 JP du Plessis,12 Tim Whitehead (captain), 11 Luther Obi, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Enrico Acker, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Thembelani Bholi, 5 Cornell Hess, 4 Steven Sykes (vice-captain), 3 Tom Botha, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Substitutes: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Simon Kerrod, 19 Paul Schoeman, 20 Tim Agaba, 21 Dwayne Kelly, 22 Karlo Aspeling
Ockert de Villiers – Sport24 http://www.sport24.co.za/Rugby/CurrieCup/Kings-show-solidarity-for-unpaid-mates-20151003
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