Super Rugby

Same storm, not the same boat - Why the Bulls established a R1.5m relief fund

The Bulls have established a relief fund for community rugby. (Blue Bulls)
The Bulls have established a relief fund for community rugby. (Blue Bulls)
  • The Bulls have established a R1.5 million relief fund for its substantial, but financially crippled community rugby scene.
  • While there's still a perception from some that club rugby is merely a social pastime, it employs more people than in the professional sphere.
  • There's hope that return-to-training protocols for clubs will be finalised soon, though there are a lot more logistical challenges.

"We're all in the same storm, but we're not all in the same boat."

Willem Strauss' re-working of the old adage illustrates effectively why the Bulls on Tuesday announced the establishment of a relief fund for its social wing - community rugby.

"It's understandable that professional rugby is attracting most of the attention during the Covid-19 crisis. That's after all the goose that continues lay the golden egg for the game," the union's president told Sport24.

"Yet what we sometimes tend to forget is how much the club and schools circuit contributes to our wellbeing as a union. In turn, clubs and schools also provides employment. In fact, there are far more people making a living off community rugby in South Africa than in the professional sphere. I, according to my mandate, have a responsibility towards these parties."

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Leveraging the existing strong co-operation between Remgro and Patrice Motsepe - it's main shareholders - as well as longstanding sponsor Vodacom, the Bulls got all three parties to set aside R500 000 each to kick-start the initiative.

The R1.5 million kitty will be distributed to individuals whose main source of income has literally been cut off.

"There's nothing fancy about how we're going about this. We want to be the difference between a person having some food on the table or not," said Strauss.

"We want to help our part-time referees, our greenkeepers and administrative staff. These are people who bleed for the cause, they deserve some support. We're honoured to have partners that understand the needs of the people and the community"

The initiative should also help shed the modern perception emanating from some quarters that club rugby is little more than a social pastime.

"One of the best examples is one of the Blue Bulls' biggest clubs, Naka Bulle," said Strauss.

"Yes, they have corporate backing, but their sponsors are businesses who have also been impacted by the economic downturn brought on by the Covid crisis. Naka Bulle have no less than 14 full-time staffers and its own academy. Even the big guns are suffering. No-one is being spared by this pandemic."

Given its vibrant club scene, the Bulls are also hopeful that return-to-training protocols for amateur rugby will be finalised soon.

"It's about controls when it comes to the community game. Most of your players are engaged in different activities during the week in terms of employment and things. So the key is to develop controls tailor-made for that," said Strauss.

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