THE South African Rugby Union (Saru) on Thursday announced two groundbreaking agreements which will see the body take control of all Test matches from provinces, and the Mbombela stadium in Nelspruit become an official Test venue.
The decisions were made during a meeting of Saru’s executive council in Cape Town.
In another development the organisation announced an exciting Test series featuring the Boks, their 2015 Rugby World Cup opponents Samoa and Scotland, as well as Italy in the domestic tour slot next year.
Commenting on Saru’s decision to take over the hosting of Test matches, as opposed to selling the rights to the provinces as they have done in the past, Saru CEO Jurie Roux said it would offer several benefits. Under the former Test model the provinces had to pay Saru a cash guarantee, depending on the stature of the opposition team, with Tests against the All Blacks costing unions in the region of R10m.
"Saru was the only major union in world rugby that didn’t properly own its own Test matches," said Roux. "The decision by the executive council now gives ownership to Saru. The key benefits will be in allowing us to plough a share of the profits back into all the unions, and by controlling the ticket office and all commercial activity in the stadium, we will be able to provide an experience for our stakeholders on a par with what we experience when playing overseas.
"This is a major change in how rugby is run and will present challenges. But the major effect is that it has placed Bok Tests in the ownership of the mother body, for the benefit of all rugby’s stakeholders."
Saru hosted only one Test this year — the clash between the Springboks and All Blacks at Soccer City — with the intention of distributing some of the proceeds to the smaller provincial unions.
The new Test series, which was revealed in the announcement of the Springboks’ home fixtures until the 2015 season, will feature two rounds of clashes with Scotland, Samoa, and Italy.
The teams will be awarded log points for their results, with the top two teams meeting in a final in the third round, while the lower-placed teams will battle it out for pride.
The first round of matches will take place on June 8, with Scotland meeting Samoa and the Springboks taking on Italy at the Mbombela Stadium, with the second round featuring clashes between Samoa and Italy, and the Springboks and Scotland in Durban.
The final round will be hosted at Loftus Versfeld the following week.
"We are taking the Boks to a new venue in 2013 and have an exciting new competition format for the June Tests, by coincidence against two of our World Cup opponents of 2015," said Roux. "We have also been able to map out a home fixture schedule for the next three years, something the provinces also wanted."
The 2014 domestic tours will feature two Tests against Wales in Johannesburg and Nelspruit, followed by a clash against Scotland in Port Elizabeth, while there will be no domestic tours in 2015, due to the Rugby World Cup.
• Springbok Sevens coach Paul Treu believes the fact that his side could become only the second Blitzbokke team to win the home leg of the HSBC World Sevens Series, will be enough motivation to break their hoodoo in Port Elizabeth this weekend, and win the series for the first time since 2008.
Treu’s charges, however, face a tough task as they have been drawn in a tough pool with Dubai champions Samoa, Australia and France.
"This is a fantastic opportunity for the players to make history, by becoming only the second team to win the home leg, so there will be no lack of motivation," said Treu.