Little-known Saru presidential candidate could stir the pot

Andre May, president of the Leopards, is going to take on serial politician Mark Alexander. It’s a David vs Goliath scenario but what if he wins?

Earlier this week, the South African Rugby Union (Saru) announced the nominations for key decision-making positions when the governing body holds a general council meeting next month.

The big news in this regard is that there’s actually going to be a contest for president.

Incumbent and serial politician Mark Alexander is going to have to fend off the candidacy of Andre May, an Advocate of the High Court and president of the Leopards.

When you read something like that at first glance, the first feeling is trepidation.

We know small unions in particular don’t have a good reputation among certain sections of the rugby community.

We perceive them as self-serving and irrelevant in the professional era.

And to be brutally honest, the role of a president is probably redundant anyway.

What can he do what a CEO can’t do?

That debate is worth a column on its own.

Nonetheless, it’s a structural thing inherited from the amateur era and will not disappear until all our local teams a 100% privately owned, which won’t happen anytime soon.

May’s Leopards definitely count as one of the smaller unions in South African rugby.

Of that there’s no doubt.

But the interesting thing is that a May presidency could actually be a pretty good thing for the game.

The Leopards are uniquely positioned in the sense that they are politically isolated.

They’re not quite big enough to bark with “bigger smaller” unions like the Pumas and Griquas – who were granted franchise status earlier this year – but are far more self-sufficient than Boland, South Western Districts, Eastern Province and Border, who could be expected vote together as a regional bloc on certain issues.

It means that over the years, May and the Leopards have had to be pragmatic to ensure their long-term viability.

And being sensible in South African rugby is never a bad thing given how scarce that actually is.

You can also bet that May’s presidency will be a rugby-first, back to basics one.

He’s admitted that his candidacy will be at a great financial cost to him, pointing to his commitment.

But does May have the political nous?

Alexander is a board member of Sascoc, which – controversial or not – is a bonus for any national sporting federation.

It hardly sounds like a solid platform but in our context, it’s an unfortunate reality.

Heinz Schenk: Online Sports Editor.

Heinz Schenk: Online Sports Editor.

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