Johannesburg — SHARKS president Peter Hassard said yesterday that he believed the bombshell dropped by Absa that it would not renew its sponsorship of the Shark Tank was due to the bank's imminent sponsorship of the national team.
Absa, which has been the stadium sponsor since 2000, is believed to have signed the deal as the new Springbok sponsor from next year at the Tri-Nations Test between the Springboks and New Zealand at Soccer City in August.
But with Sasol's sponsorship deal with the national team only expiring in December after the Grand Slam tour to the UK, Absa appears to be delaying the announcement.
The Sharks broke the news of Absa's decision not to renew its naming rights of the stadium in a short statement yesterday, saying: "Absa have terminated an 11-year association with us, having decided to drop the current sponsorship as stadium naming rights-holder, which they have held since 2000. The news comes ahead of Saturday's final when the Sharks host Western Province. From Kings Park to the Stadium Kings Park and finally to the Absa Stadium Durban the Shark Tank is world-renowned for its unique brand of pre- and post-match entertainment and as the home of the Sharks. The termination of the sponsorship means that the Sharks will now be in the hunt to find a new sponsor ahead of next year's Super Rugby tournament."
Absa chief marketing and communication officer Happy Ntshingila yesterday released a vague statement on the decision not to renew the sponsorship agreement, saying only: "Absa is currently rationalising its sponsorship spend and, based on this considered review, a decision was taken not to extend our naming rights regarding the Absa Stadium in Durban, beyond this year."
Hassard, however, believed the main reason for the decision was the Springbok sponsorship deal, which is believed to be worth more than R65m a year.
"I haven't seen the statement from Absa," said Hassard. "But in my opinion it is because they will be sponsoring the Springboks, so they are probably trying to cut their spending elsewhere."
He said the next step for the Sharks would be to find a new stadium sponsor. But he admitted that it could be tough in this economic climate.
"Let's be honest, the current financial times will make it tough (to find a new sponsor). I don't know if people will have that kind of money to spend. But one never know s. We have agents who will work on it and we'll see what happens."