Friday, April 25, 2014

Made in South Africa, for South Africans, by South Africans

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The launch of the new Springbok jersey took place last night (24 April) at the V&A Waterfront’s Lookout venue in Cape Town. Organisers couldn’t have picked a better evening if they were given the pick of different weather bouquets – with guests enjoying prelaunch drinks overlooking Table Bay with the sun setting over the ocean, people were in awe even before they were shown the real star of the show.

Retailers, distributors and media were keen to see the new Springbok jersey, the design of which Asics had kept very quiet about before the launch despite efforts to lure company members into slipping a detail.

“Ever since we’ve announced our sponsorship with Asics last August, excitement has been building towards the big reveal of the new Springbok jersey,” says Jurie Roux, SARU (South African Rugby Union) CEO.

“Rugby is like a religion and you can equate the jersey to the holy grail,” he said. They realised just how passionate fans are about the jersey after the April Fool’s joke featuring a red jersey. “Fans were so passionate, we had to reveal the joke just after 9am instead of at noon as planned!”
Alistair Cameron, CEO Asics Europe.
The Japanese brand Asics and the South African Springboks share a similar history of sorts, said Alistair Cameron, CEO Asics Europe. Asics’ founder, Kihachiro Onitsuka, wanted to mobilise the Japanese youth post-World War II and get them active again. He also realised that sport has a unifying quality – something South Africa knows all too well after Madiba wore his Springbok shirt in 1995 and won every South African’s heart. “Through sport, hope can be restored,” said Cameron.
Stefan Heinrich, head of emerging markets for Asics Europe, and Brian Pollock of Jordan & Co.
When looking for a new technical kit sponsor, SARU had three important boxes for the company to check: they wanted the best technical garment for players, a company that can offer the Springbok brand a global footprint, and (most importantly) the new partner had to be willing to endorse South Africa – our people and our products.

Asics ticked all three boxes. They are even already doing research to improve the jersey even more for the 2016 Rugby World Cup.

The Springbok brand is globally recognised and desired. “We want to be able to walk in Paris or Timbuktu and buy a Springbok jersey,” says Roux. Asics being a global player takes SARU’s dream of finding the Springbok jersey any place in the world one step closer to reality.

Bradley Moritz (right) and Kobus Potgieter of Sportsmans Warehouse.
SARU gave Asics 8 months to get the first replica jersey ready from the drawing board to the hanger – a feat that normally takes around 18 months, says Cameron. Not only has the deadline been met, the brand has managed to have 90% of the replica jersey made in South Africa. Asics makes use of manufacturers in Durban and Cape Town.

SARU is also in the process of signing with Proudly SA. “We will be the first South African federation to be able to say that the bulk of our kit is made in South Africa,” says Roux.

The Springbok jersey is made in South Africa, by South Africans, for South Africans. “The jersey has always been for South Africans. Now it is made by South Africans,” said Springbok captain Jean de Villiers. “The jersey not only looks good; it feels good.”

Asics doesn’t plan to stop their local manufacturing efforts with the Springbok jersey. They are planning to extend their manufacturing capabilities to include all of their ranges, which include products for tennis, cricket, running, handball, etc.

“Our goal is to become the best sporting brand in South Africa,” says Cameron.
Eben Etzebeth models the new Springbok kit while Yvette Pranger, category manager of rugby for Asics Europe, explains the features.
Asics has introduced several improvements to the Springbok jersey, explained Yvette Pranger, category manager of rugby for Asics Europe. It features Asics’ Motion Dry technology, which provides temperature management, makes the jersey breathable, lightweight, quick drying and allows for excellent freedom of movement.
Toni Haarburger of Sportsmans Warehouse.

The Springbok jersey also features the Gripper technology on the chest, which enables players to keep a better hold of the ball. The same technology is also on the inside of the jersey to stop the shirt from moving around while players are running. Asics created a material that has very good horizontal stretch, but that does not stretch a lot vertically. This is so that opponents have a harder time pulling at the jersey.

The bonded seams are reinforced, which makes them less likely to tear. Asics also moved the side seams slightly to the back, which creates less chafing under the arms.
Jax Snyman of The Sweat Shop.
Even the Springboks’ shorts and socks have been given their own technologies and upgrades.

The short is made of strong woven material with a stretchable area on the backside and slippery areas on the sides, to make it more difficult for opponents to hold onto the Springbok player.

The socks feature Asics’ Motion Control technology, which provides compression qualities to stop the muscles from getting too tired.
Dr Michael Mol, Siv Ngesi, Candice Botha, Liezel van der Westhuizen, Katlego Maboe and young models showed off the new supporter wear.
It’s not only the Springboks who will be enjoying technology and improvements in their new jerseys – supporters’ replica jerseys also feature their own set of goodies. 

The replica jersey – available in home and away for men, women, youth and kids - has a looser fit to accommodate the more traditional rugby supporters’ build, explains Pranger. Like the Springbok jersey, the replica also features the Motion Dry technology, which makes the jersey breathable, lightweight and quick drying.

The replica shirt will also be available in a take-down at a lower price point for consumers who want the “look” without the technologies, at a more affordable price.
Dirk Wessels of Somerset Sport and Brett Burnill of Leisure Holdings.
The Springboks will wear their new jersey for the first time in the game against the World XV on 7 June. “The Springbok jersey is almost sacred to South Africans and I’m very excited about the prospect of running out in this new jersey later this year. Getting an edge over your opponents is important and I’m sure the new technological advances will assist us on the field,” says De Villiers.
Dawid Visser, Rykie van der Merwe and Brian Pollock of Jordan & Co. Visser and Van der Merwe will be joining Asics SA.
SARU’s contract with Asics runs for six years, and Asics has made a commitment to manufacture at least 70% of its licensed supporter wear in South Africa. “We believe that it is to everyone’s advantage if we produce the SARU merchandise locally. Our long term aim is that we develop South Africa as an Asics manufacturing center of excellence for all our product ranges,” says Max Keen, brand and sports marketing manager for Asics Europe.
The Asics SA team will be headed by Brian Kerby (right), pictured here with Stefan Heinrich.
Asics is in the process of setting up a local subsidiary in South Africa. Read more on our website.

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