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Leopards Scores SA Rugby First

Published: Tuesday, 30 October 2007 10:55

Royal Bafokeng Sports Holdings and Leopard Rugby (Pty) Limited announced a ground–breaking agreement today in terms of which the latter becomes South Africa’s first black–owned professional rugby franchise. Johannesburg, Tuesday, 30 October 2007 – Royal Bafokeng Sports Holdings (Pty) Limited (RBSH) and Leopard Rugby (Pty) Limited announced a ground–breaking agreement today in terms of which the latter becomes South Africa’s first black–owned professional rugby franchise. The North West Province’s Leopards compete in the Currie Cup First Division and the Vodacom Cup.

RBSH is an operating subsidiary of Royal Bafokeng Holdings (RBH), the investment vehicle of the Royal Bafokeng Nation, a 300 000–strong community of black South Africans with substantial, platinum–rich land holdings in the North–West Province.

In terms of the agreement between the Royal Bafokeng and Leopards, RBSH has acquired a 49.9% and financial control of the Leopards franchise from the SAIL Group Limited and the Leopards Rugby Union. RBSH will be the lead sponsor of the side for the next five years. Leopards Rugby Union will retain the balance of the shares.

Three of the province’s top clubs – PUK Rugby Institute, Vaal Reefs and Rustenburg Impala will benefit financially from the new sponsorship, a primary objective of which is to provide the resources the Leopards will need to advance to the ranks of the top five in the Absa Currie Cup within three years.

Representatives at the announcement: RBH, Royal Bafokeng Sports Holdings, Leopards Rugby, SA Rugby, University of North West and Royal Bafokeng Administration. The Leopards will be renamed the Platinum Leopards, to reflect the professional team’s heritage in the North West, The Platinum Province. The world–class, 40 000–seater Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in Phokeng, venue of the game between the All Blacks and the Springboks in last year’s Tri–Nations competition, will become the Platinum Leopards’ second home ground after Santam Olën Park in Potchefstroom.

RBSH Managing Director George Khunou said: “Coming hot on the heels of the Springboks’ World Cup victory, which has focused on the need for rugby to reach sectors of the South African population it hasn’t touched before, this move represents an important step in the Royal Bafokeng’s contribution to transformation in rugby.

“Sport – with rugby, soccer, athletics, netball and the martial arts as a starting point – is a key element in the Royal Bafokeng’s Masterplan for socio–economic development; indeed, our vision is for a vibrant, healthy and patriotic community transformed through sport.

“We are very pleased to have this opportunity to apply Royal Bafokeng resources towards the development of the North West’s provincial rugby side and we are enormously excited by the opportunities this new association offers for the growth of the sport at community level. We would like to thank the North West University, the Leopards Rugby Union and SAIL for their highly constructive approach to this new partnership.”

Leopard Rugby CEO Dr Eugene Hare described the new association with the Royal Bafokeng as “the best news in the history of rugby in the province”.

“We are now in a position to buy players of quality who, with the players we have developed over the past year, will make a formidable, competitive team in the Vodacom Cup and the Absa Currie Cup First Division in the coming season.”

Dr Theuns Eloff, Vice–chancellor of the North–West University, which facilitated the Royal Bafokeng agreement, said the university, with its PUK Rugby Institute and High Performance Institute, has a proven track record in identifying and developing rugby talent. “We are ideally placed to partner the Royal Bafokeng in fulfilling its vision for the sport in the province.”

The Leopards Rugby Union is currently developing five coaching centres in the North West Province – at Potchefstroom, Klerksdorp, Vryburg, Mafikeng and Rustenburg – each focusing on management, marketing and recruitment, clinics, facilities and human resources, rugby education for spectators and league development. The vision is to split the Rustenburg centre into two, with one part focusing on the development of rugby amongst the Royal Bafokeng and its neighboring communities.

In a further development, Impala Platinum will co–operate with the Royal Bafokeng – its black economic empowerment (BEE) partner in the establishment and running of a rugby academy based in the Rustenburg valley. Promising players, who do not obtain a university exemption and thus cannot be accommodated at the Puk Rugby Institute, will be enrolled as interns at the Rustenburg academy.

The Leopards transaction announced today is the second major sporting deal for the Royal Bafokeng in recent months. In May this year, RBSH acquired a 51% interest in Professional Soccer League (PSL) side Silver Stars, later renamed Platinum Stars. The PSL side now has the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in Phokeng – a 2010 Soccer World Cup venue – as its home base and will play a major role in soccer development at community level in the North West Province.

For further information, please contact:

Maggie Sekoto (Forever Marketing)
Mobile: 082 902 3780

Winton Windell (NWU)
Mobile: 083 631 6402