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SA Rugby include swipe at NZR in lengthy statement on CEO's exit

By Ian Cameron
(Photo by Elias Rodriguez/Getty Images)

SA Rugby and Jurie Roux have issued joint statements after it was confirmed he would be departing the role as CEO after 12 years following the allegations of financial mismanagement in a previous job.

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President of the South African Rugby Union Mark Alexander said the decision “was mutually agreed in the wake of speculation about Roux’s future.”

The agreement to ‘step down’ come in the wake of Roux’s long-standing legal battle with his former employer, the University of Stellenbosch. Since the beginning of last year, there has been a flood of reports that suggested Roux will be ‘kicked out’ or ‘axed’ as CEO.

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In December 2021, Roux lost an appeal and was ordered to personally pay back more than ZAR37-million (£1.7 million) to the University of Stellenbosch. Roux was ordered to repay the huge sum of money – which an arbitrator found he had misappropriated from Stellenbosch University between 2002 and 2010.

It lead to widespread speculation around his role and ultimately to the decision for SA Rugby to split with the 52-year-old.

“Jurie Roux has consistently emphasised his loyalty to the organisation and his desire to do what is in its best interests,” said Alexander.

An acting CEO will be confirmed before the end of the month, while the process to find a new top dog begins.

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Alexander said the decision had been mutually agreed during 2022.

“I have never doubted Jurie’s commitment to SA Rugby and this decision was not an easy one for anyone who has worked closely with Jurie for more than a decade – both here and overseas.”

For his part, Roux said leading SA Rugby had been a privilege: “The players talk about leaving the jersey in a better condition than when they first received it, and my only hope is that people will say the same of my contribution in time.

“It has been a period of great challenges and some great moments, and I would like to thank my local and international colleagues and our commercial partners for the support they have given to rugby and to me over the past decade.

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“I worked with a fantastic group of people daily, and together we have built something amazing that truly unites and inspires our country. Thank you to all the loyal and hardworking staff of SA Rugby; all of you have contributed to the achievements of rugby.”

Roux, who was appointed CEO in 2010 by the SA Rugby General Council after being recommended by an independent recruitment panel, has been the longest-serving CEO of a major World Rugby federation. According to Alexander, Roux has been an exceptional CEO and has left the organization in a strong position.

“Jurie was a key driver along with the President and the Executive Council in the development of SA Rugby’s Strategic Transformation Plan 2030 – which is already paying handsome dividends on and off the field – and a key contributor to South African rugby’s journey to a private equity partnership,” said Alexander.

He said that Roux was at the helm of the organisation when it was hit by outside forces that set in motion two of the worst periods in the history of rugby in South Africa since democracy.

“The first was in 2016 – when the sports ministry acted against several sports, including rugby, over the perceived pace of transformation,” said Alexander. “We were barred from bidding for international events, sponsors turned their backs on us, and the challenges were compounded by poor on-field performances.

“A new direction was crafted to transform the organisation back to winning ways, which was crowned when the Springboks became world champions in 2019 and our subsequent victory in the series against the British & Irish Lions.

“The second challenging period was the COVID-19 pandemic. Our revenues were hard hit due to our non-participation in international competitions. Jurie together with key industry role players, drove through an industry-wide mitigation plan was implemented that went a long way towards saving the game from collapsing.

“Along with the rugby leadership, Jurie has worked consistently on ways to meet new demands and changing trends in entertainment, sport, and rugby, which includes negotiations with an equity partner to fast-track our objectives to further grow our game financially.

“The Springboks and Blitzboks are firmly established among the world’s leading teams; our women’s rugby programme is on an upward trajectory, and we have had success at every age group level on the field; we are likely to gross record sponsorship receipts in 2022.”

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Alexander also took time in the statement to aim at shot at the New Zealand Rugby (NZR), claiming that they ‘killed Super Rugby’.

“We are successfully transitioning to a northern hemisphere future, after negotiating our professional franchises into the Vodacom United Rugby Championship and the European Rugby Championship after New Zealand unceremoniously killed Super Rugby.”

Roux won’t be gone just yet however and will oversee an ongoing equity transfer and the handover to his successor.

Alexander said: “Jurie has delivered top-class service to the organisation throughout his tenure despite the outside pressures on him in recent times. It requires a special skillset to lead an organisation such as ours and he will be hard to replace. It greatly pains me to be making this announcement.

“As an organisation, we wish him well for the future and on behalf of everyone involved in the game, including our rugby-loving supporters and partners, I want to sincerely thank Jurie for his tireless work and commitment. He might be leaving rugby now, but we know he will find success as he did in rugby in whatever he turns his hand to.”

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