SA Rugby boss Rian Oberholzer

SA Rugby boss Rian Oberholzer. Image: SA Rugby website.

SA Rugby lose R6.8m

SA Rugby says its small R6.8m deficit in 2023 is actually a “major achievement” considering the significant game-related expenditure it had in an “extraordinarily challenging” financial year.

SA Rugby boss Rian Oberholzer

SA Rugby boss Rian Oberholzer. Image: SA Rugby website.

SA Rugby has reported a shortfall of R6.8m before tax in 2023 because of significant game-related expenditure, its members were told on Thursday.

The result was described as a “major achievement” by CEO Rian Oberholzer at SA Rugby’s Annual Meeting in Cape Town, against a global rugby landscape in which many other national unions had reported significant losses.

A sizeable 38% of annual union revenue of R1.35bn was expended on the investment in participating in the Vodacom URC and EPCR competitions (R385m) and the ultimately successful Rugby World Cup campaign (R133m).

Other Springbok and national team activities (R326m), and securing player image rights and local insurance (R124m) accounted for 33% while the R347m distribution to member unions was 25% of income.

The escalating costs arrived in a year in which revenues traditionally decline because of a reduction in the Springbok fixture programme which resulted in a 7% decrease in group revenues from R1.54bn in 2022 to R1.44bn.


“It was an extraordinarily challenging financial year,” said Oberholzer in Cape Town. “And to achieve the outcomes we did, both on and off the field, was a major achievement.

“Income declines in Rugby World Cup years, while costs go up, and for the first time that challenge was compounded by the fact that we continue to invest in northern hemisphere participation.

“Those investments continue to pay off, but it makes for a very challenging balancing act on an annual basis. Those challenges will lessen once we become shareholders in the URC, but the general financial sustainability of the SA rugby ecosystem remains an ongoing concern.”


The non-participation in the traditional inbound and outbound series and a truncated Rugby Championship impacted on revenue while the contractual commitment towards Rugby World Cup player and management win bonuses increased team costs, although the impact was softened by securing a performance-based insurance product and a sponsorship incentive arrangement.

The absence of a Currie Cup sponsor was offset against better-than-expected revenues from merchandising royalties, and test guarantees for Rugby World Cup warm up matches against Wales and New Zealand.

The potential deficit was offset by group grant income recognised from World Rugby increasing significantly from R36.4m in 2022 to R290.6m. Grant income is not reported as revenue, but as other operating income.

“All international federations are struggling to make ends meet, if you look around the rugby world,” said the SA Rugby boss explained. “We are no different to our peers in that, except for the fact that we have managed to report a far more modest operating loss than others have reported.

“Unlike many of those peers, we do not have any debt and have reported an unqualified audit once again. This is a significant position we have managed to retain, considering the legacy of the pandemic and the scale of the annual investments we make in the playing of the game. I’d like to thank all in the sport for their support and contribution in making such an outcome possible.”

The full annual report will be published at next week.

New SA Rugby boss Rian Oberholzer.
New SA Rugby boss Rian Oberholzer. Photo: Supplied.