Mak­ing a play for Boland Rugby

Finweek English Edition - - Openers - MARC HASEN­FUSS

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.

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