Profit-seeking SARU could take home Tests abroad

Jurie Roux (Gallo Images)
Jurie Roux (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - Staging home Test matches abroad is among the options South African rugby bosses are considering in a bid to make the national body profitable again.

South African Rugby Union (SARU) posted a R23.3 million loss last year.

Dwindling sponsorship in a harsh economic climate, rising costs and helping fund 14 professional provincial teams were among the reasons for the deficit.

A R130 million rand reduction in sponsorship included the withdrawal of a major South African bank as backers of the Springboks.

One possibility to increase revenue is playing an occasional high-profile Test abroad to boost the bank balance, as Ireland and Argentina did last year.

"We could move an attractive Test overseas if it makes commercial sense," SARU chief executive Jurie Roux told a media group.

"Within a four-year cycle, one year could be set aside to play the New Zealand All Blacks aboard for the commercial good of domestic rugby.

"One would have to weigh the financial benefits against the fact that some of our supporters might miss a chance to watch the All Blacks in South Africa.

"It would be a delicate balancing act," admitted Roux about a proposal that could come into effect from 2020 when a global rugby calendar is introduced.

Brazil reportedly wanted to host a match between South Africa and New Zealand - one of the biggest fixtures in world rugby - before staging the 2016 Rio Olympics.

However, the proposal for a clash between countries who have won five of the eight World Cup tournaments came too late.

Ireland moved a Test against stunned world champions New Zealand to Chicago last November and ended a world-record 18 straight victories by the All Blacks.

Argentina switched a Rugby Championship fixture against Australia to London a month earlier and although they lost, the decision was financially rewarding.

Roux said it was also crucial that the Springboks become a powerful force again after a disastrous 2016 season under new coach Allister Coetzee.

The green and gold lost eight of 12 Tests - a Springbok record for a calendar year - and needed a late recovery to draw with a makeshift Barbarians team in London.

South Africa created a host of unwanted records including the heaviest home defeat when crumbling 57-15 to New Zealand in Durban.

They also lost to Italy, at home to Ireland and away to Argentina for the first time.

Coetzee has been given new assistants in Franco Smith (attack) and Brendan Venter (defence) for a three-Test home series against France during June.

"There is only one type of rugby and that is winning rugby," stressed Roux. "No matter what game plan a team has, winning is the bottom line."

SARU president Mark Alexander, elected unopposed last year after Oregan Hoskins resigned, echoed the views of the chief executive.

"Our business fortunes are chiefly determined by one over-riding factor - the performance of the flagship team.

"The form last season of the Springboks was at its lowest ebb since rugby unity in 1992.

"The new era and new dawn we had all hoped for failed to materialise, but this year will be different," he promised.

Roux said national, Super Rugby and Currie Cup teams who generated income deserved to benefit more from it.

"Ideally, you want a situation where money earned by the Springboks goes to them, money earned by Super Rugby sides goes to them, and so on."

SARU received R640 million last year from broadcast rights and the six Super Rugby sides got about R28 million each and the other eight provincial teams R20 million each.

Media critics have constantly said that a 14 provincial teams set-up is financially unsustainable and some should downgrade to semi-professionalism.

Alexander believes SARU will return to profit.

"We are signing some key new sponsors. They are big corporates," he said at the announcement of a three-year deal with a domestic airline.

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