The Southern Kings have missed out on the services of revered coach Swys de Bruin for their vacant head coach position after negotiations between the former Lions mentor and the Eastern Cape franchise broke down last week.
Last year, the Kings secured De Bruin's services on a consultancy basis after he left the Springbok coaching setup for personal reasons on the eve of the Rugby World Cup. De Bruin, who also took up a punditry role with SuperSport since the Japan showpiece, was keen on getting back to the coaching booth.
The Kings had also coveted Rory Duncan's signature, offering the former Cheetahs and Worcester head coach around R2 million for the job, but Duncan instead opted to join Johan Ackermann as one of his assistant coaches at NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes.
Director of Rugby Rob Kempson had temporarily coached the team for the 2019-20 PRO14 season, to dismal results.
Chairperson Loyiso Dotwana said he couldn't elaborate on what caused the breakdown in negotiations with De Bruin but said they had shifted their focus onto stabilising the PRO14 franchise, which has been beset by on and off field problems.
"I can't elaborate on those negotiations because his agent said they were private and confidential," Dotwana told Sport24.
"I don't have ideas at this point in time (on who will fill the head coach vacancy). We are focusing on other things and not on that. All of the [current] coaching staff are working as a collective to make sure that the team has programmes to stay fit and remain in shape and to get ready for whenever the season starts.
"No one knows yet when we are going to restart."
De Bruin led the Lions to the 2018 Super Rugby final after taking over the reins from Ackermann before the start of that season, losing to Scott Robertson's Crusaders. He was also part of Rassie Erasmus's coaching staff that helped turn around the Boks from ruin to success, although he was replaced by Felix Jones prior to the World Cup triumph.
The Kings, on the other hand, were in crisis mode last month after failing to pay player and staff salaries on time but they had no such issues in May. A staff member confirmed that salaries had been paid by last Friday.
Asked if there was a turnaround strategy to avoid further administrative and financial trouble, Dotwana blamed the bad press for their failure to attract more sponsors.
"We are in a chicken and egg situation; where do you start?" he said.
"If we get bad press, we're not gonna attract any sponsors. But we are working on turning things around; the main thing is funding. That's our main focus and nothing else."
Meanwhile, Kings minority equity partners, the Eastern Province Rugby Union (EPRU), have also been dragged into a crisis of their own after three officials were investigated for attempting to defraud the union of close to half-a-million rand.
"We've seen the press reports about what's happening there but obviously it's got nothing to do with us. It's an internal matter there at EPRU," Dotwana said.