SA Rugby’s Academies Programme has received a double boost with the announcement of a R1.1 million investment just as it celebrates its 100th “graduate” appearing in first-class rugby.
Omega Risk Solutions – an integrated security company with an international footprint – recently announced their support to the Academy Programme through the Rugby Education Trust (which funds Academy players).
Their R1.1m support will ensure that two outstanding young prospects are supported in developing their playing career but, just as importantly, continuing with their tertiary education for the next three years.
Omega Risk Solutions’ contribution will ensure that the each young player receives an annual bursary of R180 000 towards their education, training, personal development programme as well as living expenses.
Meanwhile the 2016 season has seen the number of former academy players reaching first-class level exceed the 100 mark in the four years since the programme was established in the unions of Border, South Western Districts, Boland and Eastern Province.
Among the graduates to have played at Vodacom Super Rugby level are Lizo Gqoboka (Vodacom Bulls), Lukhanyo Am, Leighton Eksteen, James Hall, CJ Velleman and Malcolm Jaer (all Southern Kings) and Sergeal Peterson (Southern Kings and Toyota Cheetahs).
Other graduates include Siviwe Soyizwapi, who was part of the TeamSA Olympic Sevens squad that won a bronze medal in Rio, and SA Under-20 captain and vice-captain, Jeremy Ward and Junior Pokomela.
A further 104 players have appeared in the Currie Cup, supported by DirectAxis and Nashua, or the Vodacom Cup. Almost 75% of the successful graduates are black players.
SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said: “The Academies are fulfilling their mandate of creating a pathway for talented young players – particularly from disadvantaged communities – to develop and realise their talent by reaching the top levels.
“The academies are consistently producing young players with the skills to make progress at the professional level. But, just as importantly, they are also being equipped with the life skills and educational qualifications that will stand them in good stead once their career is completed.”
Faan du Toit, CEO of the Omega Group of Companies, said Omega was attracted to the programme because of its educational component.
“We’ve always believed in balance in life, and to be able to assist aspiring rugby players with the means to get an education was a perfect fit for us,” said Du Toit.
“Getting involved with SA Rugby’s Academy Programme provided us with a wonderful opportunity to assist promising young South Africans to be able to make a difference in society going forward, not only in their sport, but also later in life.”
SA Rugby has established the charitable Rugby Education Trust to support players on the programme and is appealing to corporate South Africa to become part of the programme.
SA Rugby Academy Manager, Hans Scriba (who successfully established the Sharks Academy in the 2001) said that the programme offered significant opportunities to business partners.
“Corporate South Africa looking for measurable returns on Social Investment programmes really need look no further,” said Scriba.
“Rugby is obviously at the core of what we do and is the dream carried by every boy that enters one of the Academies. But they’re not all going to be Springboks and are entering a precarious profession so our focus is as much on giving them a grounding that will stand them in good stead once their career is over.
“That means education and on-the-job training, and some of the boys of whom we are most proud are those who did not make it in rugby but are now making waves in their professional lives.”
Any business interested in further information on the Rugby Education Trust can contact Hans Scriba firstname.lastname@example.org