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Rugby to return to SABC Radio after SuperSport waives rights fees for Super Rugby

14 February 2018 - 17:08 By Liam Del Carme
SABC headquarters in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.
SABC headquarters in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.
Image: Waldo Swiegers. (C) Sunday Times.

Rugby will return to the airways of SABC Radio after television pay channel SuperSport waived broadcast right fees for Super Rugby.

SABC Radio had announced to staffers that they would no longer carry radio commentary for Super Rugby and the Currie Cup almost two weeks ago.

Budget constraints they later argued were the main reason for their revised strategy.

SA Rugby‚ however‚ engaged broadcast rights holder SuperSport to cut the deeply ailing‚ perennially impoverished public broadcaster some slack.

“On behalf of all our rugby followers and SA Rugby‚ I’d like to thank SuperSport for this significant gesture‚” said SA Rugby president Mark Alexander.

“They have worked with us and the SABC to find a solution to keep rugby on the radio airwaves and the waiving of the rights fee to which they are entitled is a significant step in that process.

“The fear that rugby commentary might no longer be a feature of our listening experience is a very real and a very worrying.

“I trust that the SABC will now be able to reassure listeners that rugby commentary on Super Rugby‚ Currie Cup and Springbok Test matches will be a feature of their 2018 schedules‚” said Alexander.

“Frankly‚ it wasn’t a difficult discussion‚” said Gideon Khobane‚ chief executive of SuperSport.

“We know and understand the realities of South Africa. Once Mr Alexander asked‚ we were happy to come to an arrangement.”

A freelance commentator at the SABC who did not want to be named was ecstatic at the news.

“The fact that there is no live rugby on terrestrial television‚ there is always the need to have rugby on radio. It reaches a far wider market.

“It makes the game a bit more accessible for those who cannot afford subscription fees for the pay channel. It is a very good decision.”

Radio commentary will only start new weekend however as logistical challenges preclude the SABC from rolling out commentary this weekend’s matches involving the Stormers and the Jaguares‚ as well as the Lions against the Sharks.