Mamelodi Sundowns president Patrice Motsepe, one of South Africa’s richest businesspeople, could soon acquire half of a controlling share in the Blue Bulls rugby franchise.
Billionaire Johann Rupert’s Remgro presently owns 50% of the Blue Bulls Company, but City Press’ sister publication, Rapport, has learnt that the mining magnate’s African Rainbow Capital has put in a joint offer alongside Remgro to purchase a controlling stake in the business.
This monetary injection could give the Bulls the chance to compete with some of Europe’s biggest rugby clubs on an equal footing, and enable them to keep their best players in South Africa.
The partnership between two of South Africa’s business giants is unique and could open the door for more investment in the Bulls team so that they can once again count themselves among world rugby’s top teams.
Rapport has learnt that the offer envisages Rupert decreasing his shareholding in the Blue Bulls Company from 50% to 37.45%, while Motsepe will acquire a 37.45% share.
Together, Rupert and Motsepe would therefore hold a controlling stake in the team.
This would make the Bulls only the second rugby franchise in South Africa controlled by private investors, with the Southern Kings being the first to sell more than a 50% stake to private investors.
Motsepe’s Sundowns already calls Loftus Versfeld its home ground. The team has been moving closer to the Bulls for years.
Last year, the Bulls’ Super Rugby away jersey was in Sundowns colours, strengthening the bond between the two teams.
The Blue Bulls Rugby Union, which presently owns the other 50% share in the Blue Bulls Company, confirmed through their president, Willem Strauss, that an offer was on the table.
“We received a joint offer from Remgro and African Rainbow Capital,” Strauss told Rapport.
“It will now go through the necessary processes and levels of decision- making before we [finalise it].”
The Blue Bulls Company had a tough time this year, losing most of their Springboks to overseas clubs because they simply could not compete with the pound or the euro.
The Bulls lost Springboks including Handré Pollard, Jesse Kriel, Lood de Jager, Duane Vermeulen, RG Snyman and Jason Jenkins, as well as Super Rugby players Hanro Liebenberg, Jannes Kirsten, André Warner, Roelof Smit and Eli Snyman.
The only Springboks they could afford to hold on to were Lizo Gqoboka and Trevor Nyakane, while Embrose Papier, Ivan van Zyl and Warrick Gelant were all still under contract.
At present, there is immense financial pressure on rugby unions in South Africa and, although the Bulls may have suffered most because of overseas acquisitions, they are not the only ones feeling the pinch.
Rugby bosses are finding it difficult to keep players in the country and it is hoped that the shareholding deal with Motsepe and Rupert will help convince players to remain in the country.
Motsepe has turned Sundowns into one of the powerhouses of African soccer. They have won the PSL a record nine times and were crowned CAF Champions League winners in 2016.
Rupert recently sold his share in English club Saracens after helping them become one of the most formidable clubs in Europe.
Saracens are currently the European champions. They also won the tournament in 2016 and 2017.
Remgro previously owned a stake in Western Province, which was then converted into a loan when the Western Province Company declared itself bankrupt last year.
The Blue Bulls Company has a remarkably talented group of junior players who this year won the Under-21 title, while the Under-19 team played in the final in its league on Saturday.
However, there is concern that they may not be able to keep this talent in Pretoria if they do not have the necessary financial support.