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Rugby | New Springbok jersey | Asics Alistair Cameron, CEO Asics Europe.
July 2014

Made in South Africa,

for South Africa

Springbok supporters are now able to show their green and gold colours by wearing jerseys made in South Africa. CARIN HARDISTY reports on the launch of the Asics Springbok jersey

The organisers couldn’t have picked a better evening for the launch of the new Springbok rugby jersey in April in the Cape Town Waterfront, if they were given the pick of different weather bouquets. With guests enjoying pre-launch 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.

“Ever since we’ve announced our sponsorship agreement 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.

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.

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 already doing research to improve the jersey even more for the 2016 Rugby World Cup. 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. Asics has introduced several improvements to the Springbok player 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.

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.

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.

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.

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 centre of excellence for all our product ranges,” says Max Keen, brand and sports marketing manager for Asics Europe.

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