Neville Jardine is congratulated by outgoing Lions president Kevin de Klerk. Photo: Annemie Bester/Golden Lions Rugby Union

Neville Jardine is married with two kids and is employed by a global research-based biopharmaceutical company. 

He says he enjoys watching football in his spare time and is a big fan of Kaizer Chiefs and Liverpool. 

And, he says, he’s a big fan of all South Africa’s national sporting teams.

The man whose surname is synonymous with rugby in this country was last week Monday elected as the new leader of the Lions, taking over from Kevin de Klerk, who stepped down from his position a few weeks ago.

But where De Klerk came in nine years ago and needed to get the professional side of things functioning again and the senior team winning – something he and his executive duly achieved – Jardine now wants to focus the attention on the things that don’t always grab the headlines.

“The last few years has seen us focus on the shop window, the professional arm of the union,” said Jardine last week.

“While we want to keep that part of the union functioning well, we have to also look at the clubs, the schools, training and development.

“My biggest role then, I believe, will be to broaden the base of the union so we can continue to flourish, to grow, and sustain what we have achieved in the last few years.”

Jardine was De Klerk’s deputy president for the last nine years.

“It’s also going to be important to focus on, and grow, women’s rugby, to get more coaches involved and trained and to ensure we have referees in our structures.”

Jardine said he was humbled that Joburg’s rugby community had entrusted him with the position of union president.

“It means a lot that they have so much confidence in me. They’ve no doubt seen the years I’ve put in and most probably feel I am the right person to lead the union... it’s very humbling.

“We have work to do. There are big challenges facing us.

“One of the key focus points in the near future is finding a way to get spectators back to the stadiums. With SA Rugby, it’s something all of us in this country have to work on, to find a solution. It’s a big challenge, but one we have to get over.

“And then, the other obstacle is the player drain and trying to ensure we keep our best players in South Africa. 

“Luckily the silver lining is that when someone leaves to play abroad a door opens for someone else and there are so many promising and talented players in this country.

"Just look at Hacjivah Dayimani at the moment... he might not have got his chance so soon and been able to show what he can do if someone didn’t move on.”

Jardine comes from a rugby family – he is the son of the late Bill Jardine – and enjoyed playing the game in his younger days as a scrumhalf.

“Rugby runs in the family. I played in the old SA Cup, representing the Transvaal Independent Rugby Football Union, and also played for clubs like Collegians, which was established way back in 1848.

“I represented the Transvaal Colts and also played for Transvaal and later refereed, became a treasurer and am also currently involved in Raiders Rugby Club, hosting coaching programmes for street kids on Saturday mornings.”


Sunday Independent

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