SA decides fate of Zim rugby’s SuperSport request

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PHILLIMON MHLANGA

The South African Rugby Union (SARU) is this week expected to decide on the fate of the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU)’s application to have a local team participate in the exciting SuperSport Rugby Challenge this year, the Business Times can report.

SARU, organises the now popular rugby festival, a competition set up two years ago as a longterm successor of the Vodacom Cup competition, and is played at different venues across South Africa.

The competition, which last year was played over three months from April to July, serves as an important development competition for South African rugby. Many analysts believe the competition will change the landscape of rugby in the region.

ZRU made the application last year to participate in the exciting secondary domestic rugby competition in South Africa, which features all 14 South African provincial unions and clubs and a bit of foreign flavor. Last year, Namibia’s Welwitschias, participated in the tournament, which was won by the Pumas, who hail from Mpumalanga Province, South Africa. The inaugural tournament in 2017, was won by DHL Western Province.

Zimbabwe want to send a team to feature in the tournament from this year.

ZRU president, Aaron Jani, told Business Times this week that SARU got to the bottom of the issue and will respond to ZRU’s request this week. He said the competition was important for Zimbabwe as it would expose local rugby players to competitive rugby across the borders.

“They (SARU) said they are responding to us by Friday (this week). If we are admitted into the SuperSport Rugby competition, this will expose local players to competitive rugby, and this will definitely develop our game,” Jani said.

Jani said the rugby union was expediting the setting up of a six-team national rugby league, which was abandoned in 2014 due to financial constraints.

The ZRU is finalising sponsorship deals with corporates. They have targeted six corporate sponsors, with each adopting an individual club, a shift from the previous arrangement where ZRU had the country’s largest brewer Delta Corporation, as the title and principal sponsor.

So far, ZRU has secured three corporate sponsors, meaning they are still to conclude deals with the other three.

The return of the rugby national league this year will enhance competition among clubs and also produce quality players for the national teams. ZRU board is expected to meet next month to finalise

on the issue.

After the collapse of the national league in 2014, club rugby had been decentralized into two regions, the Northern and the Southern regions. Cash-strapped clubs have been funding themselves to fulfill fixtures.

With the establishment of a national league with corporate sponsors, the development will come as a huge relief to clubs, who have been hit hard by economic pressures. Most of the clubs had been struggling to fulfill fixtures.

Harare Sports Club won the Northern Region league last year, while Bulawayo-based rugby outfit, Matabeleland Warriors, won the Southern Region league.