Habana co-owned tech start-up launches app to boost sponsorship for SA Olympic medal hopefuls

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Tatjana Schoenmaker and Lara van Niekerk (Gallo)
Tatjana Schoenmaker and Lara van Niekerk (Gallo)
  • A Bryan Habana co-founded tech start-up has developed an app to help SA’s 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games athletes get direct sponsorship.
  • A wider conversation around sponsorship of South African teams and athletes erupted after SA Tourism-Tottenham Hotspur’s attempted near-R1 billion sponsorship deal.
  • Funding for SA athletes has collapsed since Sascoc’s Opex programme folded, putting SA at risk of failing at Paris 2024.

Amid the SA Tourism-Tottenham Hotspur near-R1 billion sponsorship deal, a Bryan Habana co-founded tech start-up has developed an app to help SA’s 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games athletes get direct sponsorship.

Parliament told SA Tourism this week that the proposed Spurs sponsorship deal with the English Premier League side "ends today, now".

The deal created a wider conversation around sponsorship of South African teams and athletes, especially Olympians, who often struggle to find funding between Games.

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Netball SA president Cecilia Molokwane labelled the SA Tourism move "insane" as they were searching for funding for the Netball World Cup held in Cape Town later this year.

"We could do with the better investment in our sport and investing in SA federations would've been a better strategy from Tourism SA," Swimming South Africa president Alan Fritz told News24.

"Our athletes represent our country and they're ambassadors. I'd be really disappointed if this is true because SA sport is not in a good space financially."

After Sascoc’s Opex programme (short for Operation Excellence), which funded elite medal hopefuls, folded SA’s track and field, swimming and other athletes have struggled for funding.

In true South African gritty style, former Springbok Habana and business partner Mike Sharman’s company, MatchKit, came up with a solution, an app called, that could help fund athletes directly, cutting out the federation red tape in the process.

"The goal is to make some of the (physically) fittest South Africans financially fit too. Generally speaking, the large majority of Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls are invariably cash-strapped for the perennial sporting showpiece," the company said in a statement.

In March 2021, MatchKit stepped in and assisted the South African men’s hockey team to raise both awareness and over R300 000 to ensure they could compete at the postponed 2020 Tokyo Games.

Soon after Tokyo, MatchKit used its technology and social media platforms to raise close to R500 000 in medal bonuses for Tatjana Schoenmaker and Bianca Buitendag.

Schoenmaker brought back gold and silver in the 200m and 100m breaststroke, respectively, with a world record time included. Silver surfer Buitendag also won SA hearts after finishing second in the women's surfing.

At the time, the department of sports, arts and culture prevaricated about bonuses for the star performers. Meanwhile, MatchKit used their technology to appeal to South Africans for a successful crowdfund for bonuses for the pair.

"It is not enough to simply pay for an athlete's plane ticket to an Olympic Games and expect a world-class performance," said Habana, who won the 2007 Rugby World Cup during his time as a Springbok try-scoring machine.

"There needs to be a sustainable solution and ongoing support to ensure our athletes are financially equipped to compete with their contemporaries. MatchKit strives to make athletes financially fit, to ensure they are not reliant on antiquated institutions, unable to deliver on their basic mandates."

The 2024 Paris Olympics begin in July next year, while the Paralympics start a month later.

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