MANY advertisements around the stadium at Kings Park in Durban could be missing on Saturday when the Sharks play the Stormers in a Super 15 rugby match.
The reason would be a dispute between Kagiso Vantage, a company that owns advertising rights at the stadium, and the South African Rugby Union (Saru).
Kagiso Vantage claims Saru owes it "millions of rands" in unpaid advertising rights fees relating to several matches played last year.
The company owns the exclusive rights to all advertising at Newlands and owns all the digital advertising rights at Kings Park.
Kagiso CE Costas Constantinou has vowed to have a complete advertising-free Newlands for next week’s clash between the Stormers and Chiefs if the dispute is not resolved by then.
But Saru has dismissed the claims and plans to take legal action, while Western Province and the Sharks rugby unions both expressed "shock" at Kagiso’s position.
"Kagiso Vantage sells advertising space to Saru at Newlands and Kings Park that is then utilised by Saru sponsors to display branding, trade names and product advertising," Constantinou said.
"Invoices submitted to Saru for payment for this space relating to games played in 2012 have still not been paid. Until these outstanding invoices are settled and additional outstanding matters resolved, Kagiso Vantage will not sell any more advertising space at these venues to Saru.
"We have obtained legal advice on the matter and are determined to maintain the ban on advertising space sales to this organisation until the matter is settled to our satisfaction," he said.
Saru asserts that all fees have been paid in full to date, relating to all Super Rugby matches, although there was an outstanding commercial dispute relating to one of 17 matches last year, at which, Saru claims, Kagiso Vantage had inflated its rates sixfold.
"Saru is also in dispute with the company in relation to Currie Cup matches, despite the existence of a signed agreement with the unions," Saru said in a statement. "Kagiso Vantage has also claimed advertising income from Test matches at the two venues — events for which no such rights apply."
Constantinou is meeting Saru CE Jurie Roux on Thursday but said he would not compromise on issues relating to outstanding payments for last year.
"I feel sorry for the unions because they are being bullied by Saru with the threat that they could lose the right to host Test matches if they side with us on this issue," Constantinou said.
• They will tell you "who’s counting?" but for the first time in Super Rugby the Bulls on Wednesday named five black players in their starting line-up to play the Western Force at Loftus on Saturday.
Zane Kirchner, Lionel Mapoe, Sampie Mastriet and Bjorn Basson are all in the starting back line, while Chiliboy Ralepelle, as expected, commands the hooking berth.
"We’re blessed with talented players," said coach Frans Ludeke. "It’s a sensitive thing but we are able to select players who can add value. It’s great for Sampie, who’s been waiting for years, and for Lionel, who has been doing great at the Lions. We don’t look for colour but maybe it can serve as motivation for other players. You don’t think about it but it’s great."
In a wider context, it also serves to highlight the changing of the guard at the Bulls. The young guns are taking over.
"We actually crossed that bridge last year with a lot of young players coming through. It is just the progress of youngsters in the squad. It will be a natural progression of playing coming through. Players have also been patient for their opportunities and now it’s time to show and add value," said Ludeke.
The coach also had to make some injury-enforced changes. "Akona (Ndungane) isn’t ready yet. Sampie will come in for him. Jan Serfontein will come in as the impact player on the bench."
If Serfontein makes it onto the playing surface, the Loftus crowd are in for the mouthwatering prospect of seeing him operating in tandem with Mapoe, who, if slightly stylistically different, also boasts some irrepressible go-forward qualities.
With Liam del Carme