RUGBY NEWS - Canadian brewers Carling Black Label announced Tuesday they will sponsor the Currie Cup for three years, giving South African rugby a desperately-needed cash boost.
SA Rugby had to slash 1.2 billion rand ($75 million/65 million euros) off the budget for this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
No rugby was played in the home of the reigning world champions from mid March to late September, forcing the Springboks to withdraw from the Rugby Championship and losing a quarter of the anticipated profits.
One report said SA Rugby stood to pocket 300 million rand if they had taken part, but a lack of competitive game-time meant the risks to the players were too great.
"What makes this sponsorship even more significant is that Carling Black Label has partnered with us during one of the toughest economic climates in sport and business," said SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux.
"This is their first rugby sponsorship, and we are thrilled to have such a well-established and successful brand associated with the Currie Cup, a competition that prides itself on its rich heritage."
No financial details were disclosed at the announcement in Johannesburg, but an official said the sponsorship will greatly reduce the competition costs incurred by SA Rugby.
The Currie Cup will run from November 27 to January 23 between the Bulls, Cheetahs, Griquas, Lions, Pumas, Sharks and Stormers with up to 14 World Cup-winning Springboks on view, including captain Siya Kolisi.
Each team will carry forward the points earned in the ongoing Super Rugby Unlocked competition, play their six rivals once, and the top four in the final standings qualify for the semi-finals.
Judged by Super Rugby Unlocked form, a Bulls team captained by Springbok back-row forward Duane Vermeulen and guided by 2007 World Cup-winning coach Jake White will be the favourites.
The Pretoria outfit are overdue success having last lifted the Currie Cup in 2009, when they defeated current title-holders the Cheetahs.
The first Currie Cup matches were played in 1989 with four South African regions competing, three of whom will take part this season.