Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

Rugby is due to return to SABC Radio after TV pay channel SuperSport waived broadcast rights fees for Super Rugby.

SABC Radio had announced to staffers that it would no longer carry commentary for Super Rugby and the Currie Cup almost two weeks ago. Budget constraints were the main reason ascribed for the revised strategy.

However, SA Rugby engaged broadcast rights holder SuperSport to cut the 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 on Wednesday. "It has 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."

He said the fear that rugby commentary might no longer be a feature of the listening experience is very real and 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.

Gideon Khobane‚ CEO of SuperSport, said, "Frankly‚ it wasn’t a difficult discussion. We know and understand the realities of SA. 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 TV ... 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."

Logistical challenges preclude the SABC from rolling out commentary for this weekend’s matches involving the Stormers and the Jaguares‚ as well as the Lions against the Sharks.

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