Southern Kings planning 'player factory'
Former Bok Kempson to scout talent for the high-performance academy
With a degree in civil engineering behind his name, it is hardly surprising that ambitious new Isuzu Southern Kings chair Loyiso Dotwana wants to build a factory.
But the factory Dotwana is planning this time will not be built of bricks and mortar.
This will be a factory designed to churn out talented young players to help the battling Kings prosper in the Guinness PRO14.
The Kings have struggled to stay afloat in the European-based league and an influx of new talent is urgently required.
“I think the high-performance academy we are planning will be our factory,” Dotwana told Weekend Post.
The significance Dotwana attaches to a successful academy is mirrored in the first major appointment made by the new owners.
They have decided that former Springbok prop Robbi Kempson is the man with the attributes needed to oversee the coaching structures and establish the new high-performance academy.
“Robbi is a widely respected professional in rugby circles and is known for his extensive knowledge of the game – having played rugby at the highest level – and for his immense role in the nurturing of young talent from this province,” said Dotwana.
“It was therefore a natural decision to appoint one of the sons the Eastern Cape province into this important role.”
“Rugby has become a very expensive business, so the easiest way for us to have our own talent is to create an academy,” Dotwana said.
“So the rugby academy, to put it bluntly, is the vehicle we will use to create our own talent for the Kings.”
Kempson, who played 37 Tests for the Springboks, said he would continue to work under Kings head coach Deon Davids as an assistant coach for the PRO14 team.
“We have already e-mailed one or two individuals regarding the academy moving forward,” Kempson said.
“We are looking at 19- to 23year-olds that we have spoken to and we will give more news about that later.
“We are also looking to bring one or two of those youngsters into our PRO14 squad to evaluate them and see how far they have progressed.
“The Kings want to build a relationship with Nelson Mandela Bay University again and have something that is very sustainable.
“With that EP U19 side we had a few years ago, we kept local boys within the province and we managed to win the competition.
“Our ambition is to do that once again and ensure we bolster the university and get them back up into the top-tier Varsity Cup.
“We want rugby in the Eastern Cape to grow from strength to strength with that sustainable base of an academy.”
Dotwana said the franchise – which is the first black-owned one in the country – would be run along key business principles.
“Our business model will enable the pooling of resources and talents to operate a smaller but professional high-performance team,” he said.
“Ultimately, our organisation will reflect what South African businesses can become and should be.”
Dotwana’s consortium recently purchased a majority 74% shareholding in the franchise from the South African Rugby Union (Saru).
This, in turn, enabled Saru to pass on a 26% shareholding to the Eastern Province Rugby Union.
“This gives them an equity position within a professional rugby team and also the opportunity to participate in our community programmes, which will be targeted at developing rugby at a grassroots level, recognising that the Eastern Cape is the home of black rugby in South Africa,” Dotwana said.
Another milestone for the franchise was the announcement made a few months ago which ensures that the franchise has a multiple-year title sponsor in place in locally based vehicle manufacturer Isuzu Motors South Africa.
“We want this to serve as the catalyst for other Eastern Cape businesses to support the franchise,” he said.
“The franchise is now in a position it has never been in before with guaranteed inclusion in the PRO14.
“We are playing against the best professional clubs in the world and need to significantly up our game to ensure that we are formidable competitors.
“This is all about playing quality rugby.”
Now it is up to Kempson to work his magic and provide the Kings with the talent needed to make them a PRO14 powerhouse.