Major changes for SA Rugby

SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux has lauded a host of constitutional changes accepted at a general council meeting in Cape Town on Friday as a ‘watershed moment’ for the South African game. CRAIG LEWIS reports.

Among a number of key changes that were made, one of the most significant appears to be the introduction of new committees for franchise (Super Rugby) and non-franchise rugby to focus and streamline decision-making.

This change is aimed at ensuring there is an increasingly seamless means to execute decisions by providing a more flexible channel of communication between unions and the executive council, while fostering cooperation between the Super Rugby franchises.

There has also been a drive to increase independent representation and remove some of the anachronisms of the amateur era such as a selection committee and vice president.

It’s believed that the abject results of the Springboks this year – which saw them finish with a shocking 33% win record – played a significant role in expediting the acknowledgement that considerable change was required to the way SA Rugby is run and structured.

‘People are always afraid of change, but sometimes things happen that force you into accepting this change,’ Roux commented. ‘In many cases today, turkeys did actually vote for Christmas. What I mean by that is that some decisions were taken by certain roleplayers that may not necessarily be deemed in their union’s favour, but rather as good for SA Rugby, and that’s a significant step.’

Although Roux said there would always be an element of provincialism in SA Rugby, he insisted that a real positive is that opposing franchises have begun to show a willingness to work together for the benefit of players and ultimately the state of the game at the highest level.

‘I think one of the furthest reaching benefits [of the changes accepted on Friday] will see franchises sitting together to discuss matters relating to contracting, how things operate, and a playing blueprint aimed towards achieving alignment. Bear in mind that there will always be an element of disconnect, but we need to get rid of that as much as possible to ensure that our players are put first, managed well and provided with the best possible opportunity to peak at the right time.’

In one of several changes to its constitution, SA Rugby also confirmed the executive council will have the final say in the appointment of a Springbok coach in future. In the past the general council – made up of the presidents of the 14 unions – voted for the national coach.

Other key changes that were approved at the general council meeting in Cape Town on Friday, include:

– Permitting 74% shareholdings in commercial arms of rugby unions by private equity partners.
– Increasing the make-up of the  independent and player representation on the Executive Council to five independents with six elected members.
– Introducing new committees for franchise (Vodacom Super Rugby) and non-franchise rugby to focus and streamline decision making.
– Removing the selection committee while retaining a selection convenor to work with national team coaches.
– Aligning with the country’s geopolitical boundaries by moving to nine members of SA Rugby, while retaining 14 playing unions.
– Reducing the presidential roles from three to two by removing the vice presidency from 2018.

SA Rugby president, Mark Alexander says they have made a number of decisions that over time will contribute to making South African rugby stronger and therefore assist the Springboks.

'The Council decided to open the door for greater private equity investment in rugby and greater business involvement to help recapitalise the game,' said Alexander.

'We make no secret of the fact that in these tough economic times the rugby business is taking the same strain that every other South African business is facing. There is a battle to find and retain sponsors and supporters and we could not continue to do business in the same way. Rugby needed to make major decisions today to find new ways of doing things today and we have done that.'

A proposed new format for the Currie Cup, which in see seven teams compete in the Premier Division and nine in First Division, was deferred until January.

Photo: Anne Laing/HM Images

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