Independent Media continues to unpack and analyse South Africa’s 2023 Rugby World Cup bid.
There is no doubting the Springbok player’s intention in Bloemfontein, post the 27-all draw with the Wallabies, when he made the effort to approach members of the Southern Palace Group of Companies and thank them for their investment in the Springboks and for their belief in the future of South African rugby.
The player then apologised for not yet having made it to rugby’s newest sponsor’s resort, be it the hotel or casino.
It was a very sweet and important moment because here was a player going out of his way to recognise the presence of those corporates who contribute to the financial wellbeing of the sport in the country.
It is a credit to the culture within the Springboks that there is respect for those who invest in the sport, but it also illustrated how little (within rugby’s wider circles) is known about the kind of heavyweight now in the sport’s corner.
Here’s the thing: the Southern Palace Group of Companies is not a hotel or casino resort but an all-South African, black-owned business that is transforming businesses in South Africa and also wants to contribute to the transformed business of rugby in South Africa.
SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux earlier this year applauded SPG’s involvement in South African rugby. He said it epitomised the confidence in the Springbok brand and also reinforced the importance of having a local, proudly South African company aligned to the Springboks and South African rugby.
SPG’s Group CEO Lucas Tseki echoed Roux’s sentiments in describing the partnership as one that dovetails with the sport’s transformation and also one that he believed would give SA Rugby a transformative edge off the field.
Tseki described SPG’s relationship with rugby as another example of the company’s vision of investing in heritage South African brands.
In the past year, SPG acquired controlling interest in engineering and construction group Murray & Roberts (M&R), with the newly black-owned construction company now called Concor.
Tseki reaffirmed the aim of Concor was to build on M&R’s 115-year South African heritage in becoming a leading Tier 1 infrastructure player in South Africa and in sub-Saharan Africa.
Tseki said the company’s vision included unlocking the infrastructure backlog, which extended to healthcare, education and transport, as well as the water and sanitation sectors.
“As Africa has to modernise, someone has to build the infrastructure. There is no reason why (Concor) cannot be a leader in these spaces.”
SPG’s initial investment in South African rugby may be dwarfed when compared with their other investments, but the company’s commitment to adding to the transformation of the sport, through growth and prosperity, certainly is no smaller.
SPG, through a start-up three-year sponsorship, has recognised the iconic 100-plus years heritage of the Springboks and also entrusted the sport’s role in modern South African society.
And everything in 2017 is pointing towards this just being the start of SPG’s interest in rugby.
For purposes of those who may not know, including the well-intentioned Springbok player, the Southern Palace Group of Companies has a huge presence in a diversified business portfolio that includes infrastructure and construction, steel, manufacturing and recycling, automotive trading and manufacturing and technology and properties, with recent investments being in Concor (formally Murray & Roberts Construction) and Safari Investments.
Springbok rugby has now been added to that business portfolio and Tseki said the hosting of the Rugby World Cup in South Africa in 2023 would be a major injection on every social, commercial and sporting level.
The transformation of all sectors within South Africa is critical to SPG, but the company’s vision was not limited to ownership transformation but a holistic transformation that would not compromise on operational excellence and delivery.
Roux, in welcoming SPG to the Springboks, acknowledged the significance of the alignment when it comes to a healthier commercial future of rugby in South Africa.
Tseki concurred: “Our slogan of driving tomorrow bodes well with the South African rugby team, who are driving towards building a winning and world class rugby team on the field.”
Mark Keohane is an award-winning rugby writer and former Springbok communications manager. Follow him on www.keo.co.za and www.twitter.com/mark_keohane