The South African Rugby Union’s (Saru) 18-month struggle for a new headline sponsor is over.
Just in the nick of time before Saturday’s first Test against France at Loftus, the governing body announced it had reached an agreement with cellular giant MTN.
The three-year deal is reportedly worth R50 million.
The Springboks will wear the logo from this weekend.
It provides some much-needed relief for Saru, who’ve been left struggling since Absa terminated it’s association at the end of the 2015 World Cup.
The bank cited “transformation issues” with the Springbok brand as one of the reasons.
As a result, it left a R130 million hole in Saru’s budget after various other smaller agreements were also terminated.
“From the very first conversation we had with them they saw the power and potential of a partnership with the Springboks and SA Rugby way beyond placing a logo on a sportsman’s playing kit,” said Jurie Roux, Saru’s chief executive.
“They understand where we are as a sport and they want to partner with us in that journey of inspiring the nation.”
The financial pressure on the organisation was substantial.
It’s had to streamline it’s organisational structure, fully fund the Southern Kings Super Rugby franchise because the Eastern Province Rugby Union is bankrupt and reduce distributions to the smaller unions.
According reports, they also had to ask players’ union MyPlayers for a discount on image rights payments.
But now there’s some relief.
“It has been a tough couple of years from a financial perspective for SA Rugby – and our challenges certainly remain – but this partnership marks the crossing of a watershed for SA Rugby,” said Roux.
The question though is: how many millions did Saru lose in bargaining power due to the Boks’ poor record in 2016?