The Sharks’ desire to acquire a controlling share in the Border Rugby Union could offer a much-needed lifeline to rugby in that region, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Back in January, when it was confirmed that MVM Holdings had concluded an investment with the Sharks, one of the interesting byproducts of the deal was said to be a strengthening of the ties between the Durban franchise and Eastern Cape rugby.
In addition to leading consortium member Marco Masotti, other partners included Vincent Mai, who is formerly of the Eastern Cape and now an investment tycoon in the USA.
New Sharks signing Siya Kolisi was in fact the first recipient of the Vincent Mai Bursary Scheme, which allowed the Springbok captain to attend prestigious Grey High School in Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth).
When chatting to SARugbymag.co.za several weeks ago, Masotti mentioned the consortium regarded growing rugby in the Eastern Cape as a priority, while hinting at long-term plans to help establish academies in the Eastern Cape.
Further to this point, a few weeks ago the Sharks sent an official request to SA Rugby communicating a desire to acquire a 51% controlling share in the Border Rugby Union.
It’s a move aimed at empowering rugby in this talent-rich region once again.
Border has been under administration since 2019 after falling into dire financial straits, while the union was also suspended from SA Rugby membership in light of the ongoing issues.
At that stage, SA Rugby president Mark Alexander described that action as a ‘last resort’.
‘The Border region is a very important pipeline for the emergence of black players and we could not stand by and watch it fall into complete disrepair. However, we are aware it faces significant financial challenges and SA Rugby does not have a magic wand to fix it.’
In that context, it’s particularly interesting to see the Sharks stepping forward to offer a potential solution by documenting plans to get rugby running in the region once again.
Part of the plan includes providing some financial stability, sound governance, and support for the running of club and schools rugby.
This could all equate to the Border Bulldogs finally getting up and running again, perhaps even in a semi-professional capacity.
It now remains to be seen how receptive SA Rugby might be to the idea, but it could potentially take a ‘problem child’ off their hands and allow for rugby in the Eastern Cape to receive a much-needed boost.
The benefits for the Sharks would surely be seen in the long term if talent is able to be nurtured into a pipeline from Border to Durban, which could provide a throwback to when they played in Super Rugby as a Coastal Sharks side that included Border and EP.
One way or another, it could surely only be a good thing to see Border rugby finally receive a considerable helping hand.