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The intricacies of Sharks' deal with Pumas and Border

NEWS: The Sharks have provided more details regarding their new rugby partnerships with the Pumas and Border Rugby Unions.

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At the weekend @rugby365com reported that Sharks have formed a new strategic partnership with fellow South African rugby unions Border and the Pumas.

As far as @rugby365com understands, the deal with the Border Rugby Union will see the Sharks provide some financial stability, sound governance, support for the running of club and school rugby, and the exchange of players.

While the deal with Pumas will also include player exchange between the two franchises, it will focus more on the Nelspruit Union’s commercial side.

On Thursday, the Sharks released an official statement, explaining the partnership which aimed at collaborative growth and development that benefits all three unions in a ground-breaking effort.

According to the statement released by Sharks, the partnership between the Unions involves the formation of working groups designed to effectively focus on player and commercial interests across the entities.

The formal partnership that contractually binds the parties together has established certain deliverables to achieve the aim of developing sustainable growth in the regions of the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga, both on and off the field.

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The Sharks stated: “There will be a two-pronged approach to these partnerships, with the Border focus aimed at grassroots development by adding expertise to their structures, including infrastructure development (corporate and playing programmes), advisory assistance on corporate governance, a feeder system for the Academy and a greater push for Women’s rugby.

“The Pumas partnership represents a player-oriented focus on player optimisation and player contracting opportunities such as player exchanges, as well as assistance with commercial growth like the sponsorship portfolio, the upsell of advertising, access to suites and the sharing of rugby-specific intellectual property.”

The Sharks CEO Eduard Coetzee said: “This is not about the Sharks buying or taking control, but collaboration. Border come from a place that shows a real willingness to rebuild, they’re proudly the cradle of rugby in South Africa and we want to partner with them at every level, from grassroots up, to assist them to re-establish as a professional company and powerhouse in South African Rugby that we believe they should be.

“We’re also thrilled to announce the exclusive strategic partnership with the Pumas, a sharing of commercial inventory, sponsorships and advertising, as well as player exchanges – but not during overlapping competitions – which is a very exciting partnership.”

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‘Waking up the Bulldog’

The president of the Border Rugby Football Union Zuko Badli admitted how thrilled he and his executive were to partner with The Sharks.

“We are also excited about this partnership, the relationship between our two unions goes back many years and in waking up the bulldog, we saw it proper to have an equity partner, but at this stage this is a strategic partnership.

“There are a number of pillars we want to benefit from with this partnership with the Sharks because we’re one year out of administration. We have paid off the debt to SARS that was owed a year ago and these are the kinds of best business practices we are aiming for.

“We want to get the sponsors back and that means improving trust because of our history and we feel that partnering with the Sharks will help improve our marketing and monetisation, as well as commercialisation of the union.

“We also include on this list corporate governance and best practices, financial management and administrative systems.

“These are the things we will look at, as well as giving our players opportunities as part of this partnership, opportunities they would not normally get. The Sharks will also receive preference in terms of buying and selling of players.

“As Border, we are very proud and happy with this partnership, one we know will benefit the rugby loving community of the Border region.”

Explaining the reasoning behind the partnership that goes beyond rugby, Coetzee explained: “We are in the human capital business and with Vincent Mai, one of our controlling owners who has a passion for the Eastern Cape, we reached out to Border who are our neighbouring province.

“There’s a huge influx of kids from the Eastern Cape who attend school in KZN and we have a number of players from the area in our current squad. Equally, we wouldn’t have won the World Cup without players from the region. So there is a traditional relationship already in place, and this partnership is a way to also pay back.

“There’s a lack of trust and a sense of pessimism in South African sport, especially in rugby at the moment, so we find that everything that happens is conversational. What we’ve worked hard on is a solution to help Border and we see it as a privilege to be in this situation.”

Delving further into the partnership with the Pumas and Border, Coetzee added: “We’re currently trying to manage a squad with 11 or 12 internationals and that plays for 11 months of the year, so if we have really strong trust and strategic partnerships, a player who sits in our squad but doesn’t get to play, can be a Border player for a full Currie Cup, knowing that he’s the first player we can draw in the case of injuries to our team.

“From a high-performance point of view, that is the ultimate aim. Instead of having players watch rugby from the sidelines, they will get opportunities with another union with a similar value system and culture.”

Coetzee concluded: “Hopefully down the line in a year or two, there will be even greater opportunities available which is a win for us, our partners and for South African rugby,”

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