NATIONAL NEWS - SA Rugby on Tuesday expressed its disappointment and frustration that millions of South Africans will not be able to watch the Springboks in action at the World Cup due to the SABC’s decision not to broadcast an event which lifted the spirits of the country in 1995 and 2007.
Those were the years the Springboks won the most prestigious trophy in rugby, with the 1995 triumph on home soil featuring the participation of former president Nelson Mandela – then cited as a major boost to race relations in the fledgeling democracy.
The current Bok team is captained for the first time by a black – the hugely popular Siya Kolisi – and are rated as one of the strongest contenders when the tournament kicks off on Friday.
South Africa, who are coached by former captain Rassie Erasmus, open their campaign by playing defending champions New Zealand on Saturday in what will be one of the most important games of the tournament.
“We are looking forward to a strong Springbok challenge, led by Rassie Erasmus and Siya Kolisi, and it is extremely frustrating for our sport that the national broadcaster is not in a position to show it,” a spokesperson for SA Rugby told The Citizen yesterday.
“We share the disappointment of SABC licence-holders that they will be unable to follow the progress of the Springboks and other big matches in the tournament.
“The Rugby World Cup has been broadcast on SABC at every tournament since 1995 and, like other mega sporting events, has the power to bring the nation together behind a national team,” the spokesperson said.
Although the television rights to the World Cup are owned by World Rugby, SuperSport, which bought the local rights, was willing to help the SABC show at least some of the tournament. But after months of negotiations, the national broadcaster pulled out.
“The SABC, having initially made a commercial offer, subsequently withdrew that offer citing budget constraints and the scheduling of the RWC, being in Japan,” Joe Heshu, MultiChoice group executive for corporate affairs, said yesterday.
Rugby World Cup broadcast rights are sold by World Rugby and its agents and all broadcasters (including free-to-air operators) can bid for acquiring these rights, he said. The radio rights are owned by marketing company IMG, not MultiChoice.
The Rugby World Cup would have cost the SABC $28 million (R413 million) for broadcasting rights on television and $60,000 for radio – not factoring in production costs of R900,000, SABC chief executive Madoda Mxakwe told parliament’s portfolio committee on communications on Tuesday.
Uplift SA pleads ex-Bok
Former Springbok lock Mark Andrews, part of the 1995 Rugby World Cup-winning team, said yesterday as a representative of all South Africans, the SABC had a duty to broadcast all events which had the potential to uplift the county’s national psyche.
“We could do with a bit of a boost and if we go through and win the World Cup, it would do a huge amount for all South Africans, instead of a never-ending saga of murder and rape and corruption in this country,” Andrews said.
Rugby was for all South Africans. It was no longer a white person’s sport, but one which could affect society, he said.
“But as the SABC has been mismanaged by incompetent people, all South Africans have to suffer because of it.
“I know what winning the World Cup did in 1995. Everybody was uplifted and it gave everyone the feeling of being proud and South African,” Andrews said.
“If the SABC can’t, then sadly SuperSport or DStv will only cater to those who can afford it, so it’s going to be an opportunity missed. It’s a reflection on the state of our country and it’s sad for the sport. Every young boy would like to watch their heroes play.
“It’s a tragedy our public broadcaster is too inept to broadcast.”