This week’s online media ‘meeting’ of SA Rugby was one of the most comprehensive and enlightening in a long time. Two of the matters 'discussed' were of particular interest for the serious rugby follower.
Top of the list, considering the curtailed season with no matches worldwide for the past ten weeks or so, is the news that SA Rugby hopes to resume professional rugby ‘in August and perhaps before.’
And then there was the not totally fresh news but at least confirmation that SA Rugby are in advanced talks with a view to establish a private equity partnership. This will enable South Africa to not only to keep up with their New Zealand and European counterparts that have concluded, or are far advanced with, similar agreements, but also to obtain much-needed capital to develop the game at all levels in South Africa.
SA RESUMPTION AND BOKS IN ACTION
CEO Jurie Roux was hopeful that a government reply to the SA Rugby’s 500-page submission on a return to contact rugby will be forthcoming by the end of the week – just a day or two before Saturday’s kick-off of the New Zealand’s domestic Aotearoa (Super Rugby) competition between the Chiefs and the Highlanders.
When – and if! – SA Rugby get the greenlight to resume contact sport in August, it will take four to six weeks to prepare the franchise teams for matches. South Africa’s four Super Rugby teams, the Bulls, Lions, Stormers and Sharks will be joined by the two PRO14 sides, the Cheetahs and the Kings.
Depending on the restart of contact rugby, which will be played in stadiums without spectators, SA Rugby envisage two competitions: the local ‘Super’ competition, followed by a hopefully full-strength Currie Cup competition should the Springboks international obligations and opponents allow this.
Boks: remaining obligations
There is an unlikely possibility that the Boks will be able to catch up on their two-match home series against Scotland and a once-off (very first) clash with Georgia which were scheduled for July. If it is possible, these three matches will probably be played in September.
♦ Also still on the original 2020 schedule is the Rugby Championship where holders South Africa will come up against the other three Sanzaar countries, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.
If at all played, the question remains whether it will be a full-scale double round competition (highly unlikely) or a tournament in Australia where all four the teams will be based.
And how can it be fitted in?
With Australia starting their domestic Super Rugby series on 3 July that will purportedly run for 12 weeks, i.e. well into September, the four-nations Sanzaar championship can therefore not be played before October. However, it seems that they have made provision for curtailment with only a single round between their fiuve sides to be played.
♦ The hope of the Springboks year-end matches in Europe remains. They were scheduled to play against (in that order) Italy, Ireland, France and Wales.
If the northern visit does go ahead, it will probably be in November.
There is still some way to go, but SA Rugby are in serious and reportedly advanced discussions with different possible equity partners. The eventual choice of the partner could play a role in whether South Africa will play in the Northern or Southern hemisphere.
Roux pointed out the realities of the present financial challenges faced by SA Rugby, even without the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic.
His view is that South African rugby will get left behind if they do not follow the route of obtaining a financially strong partner, despite the many realities that will change the somewhat amateurish approach of South African rugby for ever.
He pointed out that future decisions, with an equity partner, will to an increasing extent be determined by the economic/financial decision, with the rugby decision taking the backseat.
The upside will be that there will be more money available to make decisions on amateur rugby, such as schools, women’s rugby, refereeing, the non-franchise teams, clubs rugby and the likes.
What drives SA Rugby’s need to obtain an equity partner, is the disadvantage that it would put them into viz-a-viz the leading rugby countries.
The former Formula One owners CVC Capital Partners recently secured a 27% share of the England Premiership for £200m (R4,2 billion) have just acquired a 28% stake in the PRO14 competition for a reported £120 million (approx. R2.5 billion).
They are still negotiating the huge financial incentive of £300 million (R6.3 billion) for a stake in the Six Nations Championship).
CVC's deal would see the national unions within the Six Nations tournament receive a windfall of investment, but the unions would lose some control of the championship, with CVC then overseeing the tournament's commercial rights.
New Zealand Rugby are, according to reports, also at an advanced stage of negotiations to link up with an equity partner.