Kings may have found queen
Leigh Heard said to be frontrunner to take over from Charl Crous
The Isuzu Southern Kings may have found their queen in experienced former Sharks administrator Leigh Heard who is set to take over from Charl Crous as chief operating officer at the franchise.
A source within the corridors of power at the Kings said it was likely that Heard would take over from Crous before the new Guinness PRO14 season kicks off in September.
Having worked at the Sharks since 1992, Heard has seen the union move from its infancy to becoming a globally-recognised franchise.
Having developed a reputation as a top administrator, Heard left the Sharks under a cloud in 2014.
At the time, Durban’s Sunday Tribune reported that Heard, the ex-chief operations officer, had “been fired for a host of misdemeanours following the outcome of a disciplinary hearing”.
“I have lived through the growth of the brand from when it was just the KZN Rugby Union and we only had 12 employees,” Heard said before leaving the Sharks.
“I had a dream job and it was absolutely amazing and there was an incredible environment. But it has changed considerably since then.” The day-to-day running of Kings is currently in the hands of board members Loyiso Dotwana and Rory Stear.
The vacancy at the Kings opened after COO Charl Crous accepted an appointment to work for PRO14 in Ireland as head of operations from June.
“It was decided at our first board meeting that we have the approval to appoint a new COO,” Dotwana said in March.
“We have decided not to rush this. “We want to thoroughly review all potential candidates to ensure we make the right appointment.
“In the meantime, as an interim measure, Rory Stear and I will roll up our sleeves and get involved in some of the day-to-day operations of the franchise.
“This is to provide the focus needed to implement the required changes. Ultimately, we want to create an environment that will attract the best chief executive officer.
"We are taking over a franchise that was run by SA Rugby out of Tygerberg in Cape Town.
“So there is lot of work that we still need to do to put the systems in place to run the franchise. Charl’s appointment bodes well, because he fully understands our franchise. “He has been a tremendous asset over the years and I want to wish him everything of the best in Dublin,” Dotwana said.
News that Heard is set to replace Crous, follows hot on the heels of speculation that Kings head coach Deon Davids and 20 players could be on their way out in a major shakeup at the franchise.
Davids, who has been forced to work under difficult circumstances for several seasons in Super Rugby and PRO14, has a poor record in the European competition.
There are also plans to clear the decks of players deemed to be surplus to requirement and replace them with new talent capable of putting up a better fight.
Highly rated Irish lock Jerry Sexton and utility back Courtney Winnaar have already been signed, and a flood of new arrivals is expected in the weeks ahead.
While Davids has been in charge of the Kings, they have been able to win only three of the 42 PRO14 matches they have played.