Dan Retief

Springbok now on the endangered species list

Posted in Home by Dan Retief on 17 Jan 2017
Categories: Home

One of the jocular memes that did the rounds on social media during the holiday season was the one below.

“Good news – the Springboks haven’t lost all year.”

It is said that being able to laugh at oneself is a sign of maturity and well-roundedness but for me there was a discordant ring to some of the jokes.

It is one thing to take a year to forget on the chin, but quite another when you simply can’t see a way out of the morass.

SARU ended the year with lofty talk from new president Mark Alexander about turnaround strategies and new approaches but I fear the Springboks have already lost in 2017.

One of the key “ground-breaking” decisions was to permit 74% shareholdings in commercial arms of rugby unions by private equity partners.

This is a concession that unions (or franchises if you will) are in deep financial trouble and struggling to stay afloat – in part caused by SARU’s own drive to have the Kings included in Super Rugby; thereby creating a massively cumbersome and expensive structure for the competition.

However as a new season begins I’m not so sure offering up more of the family jewels is such a good idea and that it will be the panacea SARU desire.

Already the Springboks have been peddled to a makeshift sponsor (who apparently didn’t pay anywhere near the asking price to be linked to the iconic brand) and there is no sponsor for the wonderful old Currie Cup competition – both brands having consistently been devalued by SARU.

The Springbok has lost its mystique partly because of recent poor results but also because SARU’s puppets, bending to the will of a maverick sports minister and is government’s demands, failed to preserve it as a top marque alongside the Silver Fern… in the way, for instance, it was shunted to the sleeves of the jersey in the last two World Cups.

Added to that which right-thinking organisation would do business with organisations such as WP, EP and Border (the latter two backed by SARU) who so shamelessly went scurrying through legal loopholes when they couldn’t meet their financial obligations?

WP were thrown a lifeline by Remgro Sports Investments which had the effect of moving the commercial entity’s shareholding in the union (well their commercial arm which, remember, they so shamelessly with a legal flick-flack liquidated) to 49% – well short of the 74% SARU’s revised rules now permit.

However from my reading of the situation Remgro stepped in with loans to enable the WPRU to use another of its companies to “buy” its way out of the dwang and also advanced a large sum for December salaries.

But the January salaries will soon be due and the claim by Aerios (I have yet to see why the marketing company thinks it is owed R72-million; as a percentage of sponsorship funds which must then have been astronomical) has not yet been put to bed.

My information is that all the other franchises, with the possible exception of the Bulls, run in the red. The Lions for instance are allegedly deeply indebted to their “equity partner” and vice-president Altman Allers.

Moving up the share an outside agency can have is certainly not the silver bullet it is made out to be.

Remember when Ivor Ichikowitz and Robert Gumede bought into the Lions?

They had a taste for the glamour side of things (president’s suite, high profile signings) but no appetite for the mundane aspects such as running schools, clubs, coaches, kit, referees and the union’s age-group teams.

And if business people were to be persuaded to dabble in rugby guess what would be the next problem? The club-versus-country standoff that hobbles French rugby will soon break out here because those footing the bill will, quite aptly given the physically refractory nature of the game, demand their pound of flesh.

Apologies about starting the year on such a negative note, but ownership sadly is just one of the issues constraining the Springboks.

There are many others and yet again SARU is attempting to fix rugby from the top down rather than building from the dirt up as they should have started doing in 1995.

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4 Responses to “Springbok now on the endangered species list”

  1. Wade Taylor

    Hi Dan,
    Indeed a sad indictment and would agree with you.
    Not a good outlook for the future.
    Perhaps the ‘Springboks’ should retire hurt, renamed whatever the powers that be want and then at least the Springbok legacy shall remain intact. I find it difficult to support them any longer.

    12:04 pm on 1/17/17
  2. Jonathan Stones

    You are so right! Why should any thinking investor put money into a franchise whose very existence is dependent upon factors completely beyond their control.

    10:55 pm on 1/17/17
  3. Dan Retief

    Hi Wade, I meet so many people these days who are down-hearted about how the “Springbok” has been tarnished and say they can no longer support the Boks. Very sad. However, apart from all the other considerations it is a very powerful brand that should be preserved… like Coco-Cola saying because everyone is so down on sugar we’re going to stop being Coca-Cola?

    9:59 am on 1/18/17
  4. Dan Retief

    Hi Jonathan, good to hear from you. Your reply was not completed. Would love to hear your views.

    10:00 am on 1/18/17