First SA Rugby’s Under-20 Championship, now the Craven Week.
The chairman of the South African school committee, Noel Ingle confirmed that the Craven Week sponsorship from Coca-Cola has come to an end, according to the website schoolofrugby.co.za. They are now looking for a replacement main sponsor.
It follows on the recent cancellation of SA Rugby’s Under-20 Championship and until a new sponsor(s) are found, takes away a second critical rugby stepping stone for school leavers.
No other structures are currently in place in South African rugby to bring school leavers through the system to international junior rugby.
As it now stands, no sponsors have yet been found to continue with the various youth weeks from U13 to U18. The other youth weeks are the Academy Week, the U13 Craven Week, U16 Grant Khomo, the week for Learners with Special Education Needs (LSEN Week) and the National Girls U16 and U18 Weeks.
The Craven Week, first played in 1964, was by far the largest of its kind worldwide and was the envy of the world’s rugby nations. Coca-Cola first sponsored the Craven Week in 1984 and did so for 36 years.
The Craven Week was based on the Saru partnership with the main sponsor Coca-Cola.
The Craven Week, with the other youth weeks which are also affected, formed the cornerstone of South Africa’s junior structures. It helped U18 players to progress to national junior honours that in many instances also into international honours and rugby.
♦ It is no secret that Saru is under tremendous financial pressure. It has led to the cancellation of among others the provincial amateur competition, the annual national sevens championship tournaments for the provinces (men and women) and lately the national U20 Championship.
Saru also announced this week that the rugby museum, Springbok Experience, at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, is to close down at the end of the month after a loss of R13,8 million had been accrued over the past two years.
The Craven Week and the Academy Week have in the latter years of the youth tournaments provided opportunities for the best U18 provincial players in South Africa to play against their counterparts. Their initial stepping stone was the SA School side(s) which in latter years played with two teams against usually three sides from Europa in an U18 tournament.
Coca-Cola was also the main sponsor of the SA Schools side (U18s) for the past few years.
This, in turn, was a chance to impress the selectors with a view to making it to the U20 World Championship in the following two years.
What will happen now?
SA Rugby is looking for sponsors to fill the sponsorship void and pick up the costs.