South African Pro14 side Southern Kings will not take part in any domestic competitions for the remainder of 2020 due to financial issues, club officials have confirmed.
The Kings have faced crippling financial woes in recent months after a failed takeover bid, leading South African Rugby to assume control in June.
Both the Kings and the Cheetahs were excluded from the Pro14 restart due to the continued Covid-19 lockdown in South Africa but the Kings, who have competed in the European league since 2017, were set to be one of eight teams competing in a domestic competition scheduled to start in September.
Their future in the Pro14 must now also be in serious doubt, with the 2020/21 season due to start on 3 October.
"Following several weeks of interrogation of the Kings' financial state of affairs we were left with a straightforward choice," Kings board chairman Andre Rademan said today.
"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.
"If we did so, it would require additional loans to the Kings or extra investment from the shareholders to the tune of R6.5 million (€330,000), 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 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 is obviously very disappointing news for the players and management who, like all rugby professionals, were desperate to resume playing. But the board believed that further investment in 2020 with zero commercial return would be reckless in the extreme.
"We now have time to consider what is the best way forward for rugby in the Eastern Province in this fluid and financially challenging environment."
Mr Rademan, who is also president of the EPRU, said further consultation would take place with the Kings staff in the coming weeks over the next steps for the team.
A consortium reached a deal to acquire 76% of the Kings in January 2019, which was billed as new dawn for the Port Elizabeth-based team, but failed to come up with the necessary funds to complete the transaction.