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SA Rugby sets record straight amid nepotism allegations

REACTION: The Springboks’ first test series since their 2023 World Cup triumph in France has been overshadowed by some daunting allegations.

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The company Access Management Services (AMS) has been appointed to organise the Springboks’ highly anticipated mid-year Tests against Ireland in July.

AMS has organised events like the 2021 British and Irish Lions’ tour of South Africa, the SARU’s  2023 World Cup bid and Tests during the 2017 and 2018 Rugby Championship.

However, AMS is currently run by Lourens Oberholzer –  the son of SA Rugby Chief Executive (CEO) Rian Oberholzer.

According to various reports, a few provincial rugby unions in South Africa are seething at the development, labelling the appointment a case of nepotism.

To add fuel to the already troubling issue, AMS was reportedly appointed for the Tests at Lotus Versfeld in Pretoria on July 6 and Kings Park in Durban on July 13 without a tender process being followed.

On Sunday, a SARU spokesperson confirmed to @rugby365com that AMS was involved in the organisation of the Springboks’ Tests with Ireland because it will take place during a very busy period for the governing body.

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“Access Management is an event services company which has been appointed to assist in the delivery of SA Rugby and World Rugby events on a short-term basis to bridge a human resources gap until an operational restructure following the planned private equity investment,” the spokesperson stated.

“SA Rugby is responsible for delivering six Test matches and three World Rugby events in 2024 [the World Rugby Under-20 Championship, WXV and Cape Town Sevens] as well as domestic competitions such as the Currie Cup and Youth Weeks with an operations department of two people.”

The spokesperson revealed the appointment of AMS was made based on a World Rugby recommendation.

The SA Rugby spokesperson also denied any allegations of nepotism and stated the appointment did not involve SA Rugby CEO Oberholzer.

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“Access Management was appointed by World Rugby to assist in the delivery of the 2023 WXV in South Africa and it has independently recommended that Access Management be engaged once more.

“A Conflict Management Framework was observed in Access Management’s appointment, which was designed to address just such potential conflicts and specifically included independent committees while excluding the CEO [Rian Oberholzer].

“The CEO exited Access Management on his appointment at SA Rugby and has no financial interest in the company whatsoever.

“Access Management was appointed because of its experience and expertise in event delivery and to fill an immediate, short-term need.”

Oberholzer and former SA Rugby managing director Songezo Nayo established ASM in 2009. At the time Oberholzer was AMS’ managing director and Nayo the chairperson and the company initially focused specifically on the management of the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Gqeberha.

Since then, AMS’ operations expanded and have been involved in some high-profile events, including the 2023 World Cup bid and 2021 British and Irish Lions tour.

Oberholzer’s son Lourens was appointed as AMS’ chief operating officer in 2017, while his daughter Adriana took up the position as the company’s strategy and growth manager in 2023 and Lourens’ wife Anika serves as its operations manager.

In 2022, Lourens became AMS’ CEO. At that time, Oberholzer senior was still serving as the administrator of the beleaguered WP Rugby Union, but moved to SA Rugby in 2023 to replace Jurie Roux as the organisation’s Chief Executive.

Oberholzer previously held the position between 1996 and 2003 and was reappointed last year until at least the end of 2025.

*Additional Sources: News24 & PlanetRugby 

 

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