Making a play for Boland Rugby
EMPOWERMENT GROUP Brimstone Investment Corporation has bought a 50% stake in Boland Rugby. While the deal hasn’t yet been officially announced, Finweek hears Brimstone made the investment into Boland Rugby through its Entrepreneurial Fund (EF). The EF holds Brimstone’s smaller and start-up investments.
Boland currently plays its rugby in the top division of the Currie Cup, having recently sur- vived a promotion/relegation playoff. Boland also owns 50% of the Stormers Super 14 franchise.
While Boland ranks as one of South Africa’s smaller provincial rugby teams, the union and the region have produced some well-known players over the past few years. Those would include Springboks McNeil Hendricks, Stefan Terblanche, Wayne Julies, Enrico Januarie and Ashwin Willemse.
The emergence of Brimstone as an anchor investor in Boland Rugby will be welcomed, as the team was badly rattled when former key investor Fidentia was placed in curatorship. Brimstone’s involvement at Boland Rugby forms part of its social investment philosophy, which entails investing in communities where the company owns businesses. As a major shareholder in Saldanha-based fishing group Sea Harvest, Brimstone is one of the biggest employers in the greater Boland region.
The investment in rugby also has a commercial angle (aside from the obvious brand-building opportunities), with Brimstone’s clothing manufacturing arm holding the rights to manufacture Canterbury rugby jerseys and sportswear in southern Africa.
It will be interesting to gauge whether Brimstone’s involvement will have a noticeable effect on Boland’s performance in the 2009 Currie Cup competition. Naturally, one of the first challenges for Brimstone will be to ensure Boland retains its home-grown assets and that promising players aren’t wooed away by bigger provincial rugby unions.
As far as returns go, Brimstone may have to be patient as regards turning a profit from its rugby investment. Smaller unions often battle to make ends meet. Significantly, VenFin subsidiary SAIL – which owns a 50% stake in the Blue Bulls and a 25% stake in Western Province – has sold off most of its holdings in the smaller rugby unions.