Port Elizabeth - A new era dawns for the Southern Kings with the announcement of the Eastern Cape franchise’s proposed new owners on Monday.
The Southern Kings announced via a press statement that Isuzu Motors South Africa would be partnering with a consortium of predominantly black business people to sponsor them for a three-year period.
The statement added that "the Southern Kings will achieve a historical milestone by becoming the first black-owned rugby franchise in the country".
Binding offers had been submitted by the relevant parties, with SA Rugby EXCO approval and other transaction closing conditions set to take place over the coming weeks.
Isuzu Motors South Africa Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director Michael Sacke said the company was excited to be the main sponsor of the Southern Kings rugby team franchise under new ownership.
“The Kings represent an ideal partnership opportunity as we are both new companies who are only just starting our journeys. We both have our sights set on achieving sustainability, growth and success for the long run. We urge the residents of the Eastern Cape to join us in rallying behind the Kings, so that we can help build a strong rugby base in our region,” said Sacke.
Sacke continued to say that Isuzu Motors South Africa was passionate about the local community and committed to contributing towards the success of the region.
“As an innovative and solutions-orientated automotive company, we are proud of our Eastern Cape roots and as such are pleased to be partnering with our local rugby team. We hope that this will ultimately help boost the local economy through increased sports tourism and other spin-off opportunities,” Sacke said.
On behalf of the proposed Consortium - a group of like-minded business people have rallied together to pool resources to build rugby talent in the region - Loyiso Dotwana said the community deserves a rugby team which it can be proud of.
“We want to build a professional and competitive team for the long run. Our long-term ambition is to achieve incremental growth which ultimately will result in the Isuzu Southern Kings winning the PRO14 Championship. By creating an academy and team here, we want to retain the Eastern Cape’s talent. This is the home of black rugby - our team will promote social cohesion in South African rugby,” said Dotwana.
The consortium has entered into discussions with the Nelson Mandela University with regards to reviving the Rugby Academy and thus providing incubation and training for the team. Further announcements in this regard will be made in due course
“This places the franchise in a position it has never been before. We now have a long-term commitment from a sponsor and we are able for the first time, to plan and build a sustainable franchise for the long run,” said Charl Crous, Chief Operations Officer of the Southern Kings.
“We want Nelson Mandela Bay to be the country’s sporting destination of choice,” said Executive Mayor Athol Trollip. “Rugby is a critical part of that, which is why we need strong clubs and unions that nurture, retain and promote local talent. This is a new era for the Southern Kings, after years of travails and challenges. With a sponsor like Isuzu committed to this initiative, the trajectory is only up. The Metro is proud to support the next chapter for our Southern Kings, and requests that every resident get behind the team on its way to PRO14 victory.”
The Southern Kings will be wearing their brand-new jerseys when they open their 2018/19 PRO14 campaign in Parma, Italy, where they play the Italian side Zebre on August 31.
Their first home game in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium will be on September 16 when the Southern Kings take on Ireland’s Ulster and again on September 22 when they take on Glasgow Warriors (Scotland).
The Southern Kings initially came into existence in 2009 for the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa and were one of the first international teams to play at the newly built Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
The Southern Kings stood their ground as a proudly Eastern Cape team when they played Super Rugby in 2013, 2016 and 2017, before joining the PRO14 for the 2017/18 season of the European competition.
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