Rugby Union: S Africans good for business

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The Independent Online
SOUTH AFRICA'S appearance against England at Twickenham is nearly four months away but already the Rugby Football Union is guaranteed a substantial reward from the prodigals' return to international rugby.

Save & Prosper, the investment company which has supported England's home matches since 1985, yesterday announced pounds 110,000 backing for the match, on 14 November - taking its total sponsorship over seven years to almost pounds 3m. It will also sponsor next season's games against France and Scotland as well as the England-New Zealand match in November 1993.

Twickenham used never to be full for autumn internationals but the presence of the Springboks, concluding a four-match visit after their tour of France, is already certain to generate a capacity audience, which by then will be 55,000 as the new east stand takes shape. Dudley Wood, the RFU secretary, said yesterday that ticket enquiries had come from all round the world.

This will be the Springboks' first overseas tour since they were in New Zealand in 1981 and the first time they will have played England at Twickenham since 1969. New Zealand became the first rugby country to make an official tour of South Africa since England in 1984 when they arrived on Sunday night, and already South Africans are being warned to prepare for defeat by the All Blacks and then Australia, who follow.

Danie Craven, joint-president of the South African Rugby Football Union, said yesterday: 'Our players are not nearly as fit as the All Blacks or the Wallabies,' he said. 'Our forwards are very weak.' Which should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt, even though both touring teams have had the advantage of the recent epic Bledisloe Cup series as preparation.