Leopards become first black-owned rugby franchise in SA

A Leopard can, after all, change its spots. The Leopards rugby side, which competes in the Absa Currie Cup first division, will forthwith be known as the Platinum Leopards. They became the first black-owned rugby franchise in South Africa when Royal Bafokeng Sports Holdings (RBSH) on Tuesday announced a groundbreaking sponsorship agreement.

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.

In terms of the agreement, brokered by the University of the North West, RBSH has acquired a 49,9% share and financial control of the Leopards franchise from the Sail Group and the Leopards Rugby Union. RBSH will be the lead sponsor of the side for the next five years. the Leopards Rugby Union will retain the balance of the shares.

The president of the Platinum Leopards, James Stofberg, declined to mention what the sponsorship was worth. It is over five years and there is also a performance clause built in, was all he was prepared to say. a

“We are not making immediate changes,” Platinum Leopards chief executive Eugene Hare said on Tuesday.

“We hope to retain more players than we have [in the past] when monetary constraints saw us lose many who later starred for other provinces. We will also look at acquiring playing personnel in certain position.”

No announcement in this regard will however be made before next week at the earliest, Hare said.

He confirmed that a primary objective of the new sponsorship 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.

In terms of the sponsorship, the Leopards Rugby Union will also be responsible for the development function of rugby. The developmental aspect is one of the RBSH’s main objectives. The world-class 40 000-seater Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Phokeng, venue of the Test between the All Blacks and the Springboks in last year’s Tri-Nations competition, will become the Platinum Leopards’ second home ground after Santam Olen Park in Potchefstroom.—Sapa

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