PRETORIA - The South African Rugby Union (Saru) remain in deep financial distress, even with two major multi-million rand sponsors recently coming on board but there's relief on the horizon, according to CEO Jurie Roux.
Last year Saru posted a R23.3 million loss largely due to the sudden and acrimonious end of their sponsorship deals with Absa and BMW, while the Springboks' poor performances on the field did little to attract big money deals from corporate South Africa.
However, there has been a turnaround in Saru’s fortunes recently with telecommunications giant MTN signing a three-year deal with the Springboks and now FNB being the latest to back the beleaguered body.
Just like the Springboks have seemingly turned around their fortunes on the field, Roux is confident that Saru’s financial circumstances will be a lot healthier in the next year.
“Obviously, sleeping a little bit better at the moment. If you look back at 18 months from now, it was a pretty hectic ride but we are not out of the trouble yet. The Springbok team is not completely out of trouble, they will still lose some games but they will perform and it is the same for South African rugby,” Roux said at Monday's sponsorship announcement in Johannesburg.
“I think it will take us another 18 months to get us out of the financial situation that we got into. If you think about the Springboks, there is still one or two rights that are available and that we will sell and hopefully we will be making an announcement before the next Test. So, we are definitely on the up,”
While a move out of survival to have the Cheetahs and Southern Kings join the PRO14, which commences in September, Roux has not ruled out the probability of more SA franchises heading to the Northern Hemisphere.
“We now have options. We participated in Sanzaar for decades and they have been really good to us and I think we’ve been good to Sanzaar. We’ll still participate in Sanzaar.
“We are as strong as we are because we play Australia and New Zealand sides ... We still need to play New Zealand and Australia ... I don’t see that relationship ever ending or even coming to an end at the next cycle (2020),” said Roux.
“We are obviously very excited about the PRO14 and getting a solution for more of our teams to participate internationally, because that is where we want to be.
“If you think about the perfect South African structure, then we can have between six to eight teams participating internationally and the rest of them on a semi-professional level. By doing those two things - creating a platform both north, south and maybe east and west and on a local level still having derbies and a feeder system - we will feed all the professional teams,” Roux said.
There are concerns about the Kings and whether they will be competitive after a mass exodus of players at the end of their Super Rugby and the uncertainty about their management with coach Deon Davids yet to sign his contract.
“We’ll had a training squad with most of the guys pitching (on Monday). We’ll also have a management team and that will be done this week. That company was under liquidation and we couldn’t do anything.
“The unions made a commitment in sharing players with the Kings, so we’ll have a squad and we will be ready,” said Roux.