Sam Whitelock says that their bag of tricks that they can dig into against the Springboks still holds a few surprises. Picture: Backpagepix

JOHANNESBURG - While South Africa and New Zealand enjoy a strong rugby relationship, trade between the countries is worth billions of rands, according to New Zealand High Commissioner Mike Burrell, who together with Wesgro, Cape Town and the Western Cape's official tourism, trade and investment promotion agency, hosted a business meeting on the eve of the historic All Blacks - Springbok clash in Cape Town on Friday.

The event gave South African companies based in the Western Cape an opportunity to engage with businessmen and women from New Zealand, using the mutual love for rugby as a strong foundation for business-to-business engagement.

Speakers also included City of Cape Town Executive Mayor, Patricia De Lille, Wesgro chief executive, Tim Harris and the President of New Zealand Rugby, Brent Impey. Burrell said New Zealand and South Africa shared a very special relationship.

"When a New Zealander thinks of South Africa, they think Springboks and when a South African thinks of New Zealand they think All Blacks. So South Africa is New Zealand's closest rival. The rugby field is a defining picture of the relationship between the two countries." 

He said about 70 000 South Africans live in New Zealand and the two-way trade between the two countries was worth about R3.2bn and South Africa was New Zealand's third biggest export market in Africa.

"In 2016 this was our third largest export country on the whole of the African continent. A total value of exports last year was R1.7bn and is also by our most diverse trading relationship. New Zealand's growth is important to South African businesses. In fact New Zealanders buy more goods from South Africa than from the entire continent put together. Goods imported last year from South Africa totalled R1.5bn. So what you can see is that we've actually  got very even trade which says a lot about our trade relationship."

Burrell said that this story was incomplete if investment flows into each others markets was not mentioned. 

He said New Zealand accounting firm Zero had chosen to launch their latest office in South Africa, the sixth after opening offices in countries such as Australia, Singapore, UK and US. De Lille said the trade between South Africa and New Zealand waas robust and innovative and kiwi firms across software and technology is recognition of the city's position as Africa's information technology hub.

"Cape Town is an opportunity city that welcomes investment as we work to enable inclusive economic growth and job creation." 

Harris expanded on the strengthening the trade and investment relationship between South Africa and New Zealand. 

"Trade between New Zealand and the Western Cape has doubled since 2009 and is now at R700 million. This growth has also been matched by a booming tourism relationship with some 16 000 New Zealand arrivals recorded in 2016. an increase of 27 percent. Our message to international investors in New Zealand is that if you're serious about growing your business, you have to consider Africa as a future market." 

Harris said by 2050, there would  be more than 2.4 billion consumers on the continent, the largest population block in the world. 

"South Africa, with our institutional and infrastructural base, remains your best springboard into the continent. We encourage you to invest into Africa via Cape Town and the Western Cape."