THE Southern Kings have withdrawn from playing for the rest of 2020 - just five weeks from the planned start of the new Guinness PRO14 season.

The South African franchise joined the European competition in September, 2017 but have recorded just four wins in 55 games, the first of those coming against the Dragons.

The 2019/20 PRO14 campaign is currently finishing with derbies before the semi-finals, which will see the first cross-border clash between Edinburgh and Ulster.

The plan is to get 2020/21 under way on the first weekend of October despite the logistical issues of a competition featuring teams from Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Italy and South Africa.

The PRO14 is currently split into two conferences featuring an even split of teams from the participating countries.

The Kings, however, say that they won’t be playing for the rest of year with the board stating the financial hit from the coronavirus crisis left them with a “straightforward choice”.

South Wales Argus:

"We could opt to field the Kings in the domestic competitions mooted by SA Rugby for the sport's post-lockdown resumption if we so wished,” said chairman Andre Rademan.

"If we did so, it would require additional loans to the Kings or extra investment from the shareholders to the tune of R6.5m (approximately £295,000), which would add to the organisation's existing substantial debt.

"However, as there was no contractual requirement for the Kings to resume short-term participation in the Guinness PRO14 competition, because of air travel restrictions, and as the Kings had no other commercial commitments to honour, the most prudent decision was to withdraw.

“This may not be a popular decision but in the current circumstances it is the right decision.”

"This is obviously very disappointing news for the players and management who, like all rugby professionals, were desperate to resume playing,” he continued. “But the board believed that further investment in 2020 with zero commercial return would be reckless in the extreme."

South Wales Argus:

Rademan pointed to the problems of competition formats and travel restrictions - which will also impact the Cheetahs - ahead of the coming campaign.

"As a board we had been considering further short-term contracts to see the squad through to the end of the year," he said.

"But it became apparent that we would, for want a better phrase, be throwing good money after bad in the current global environment.”