Durban, 10th November: As an innovative brand, The Sharks continue to strive towards a programme of excellence on the field, while maintaining the integrity of player welfare during their careers and crucially into a fulfilling, meaningful and successful life after rugby.

In line with this mindset, The Sharks have launched a Players First Programme, which focuses on a holistic approach to player development.

Speaking at the launch of Players First, The Sharks CEO Dr Eduard Coetzee said: “A global brand not only develops and builds its key assets but strives to protect them beyond their professional careers. Out of this desire to make a big, bold and brave statement and built from an undeniable passion towards a holistic approach towards personal development, within a culture conducive to promoting diversity and inclusion, one that resonates with every player, every coach, every employee and every fan, we have initiated a Players First programme.

“We recognise that a player’s rugby journey must include lessons and opportunities both on and off the field and our aim is to transform rugby players into exceptional human beings who are prepared for the next phase of their lives, post a successful rugby career.”

To achieve this vision, there are six focus areas have been identified.

The Sharks Entrepreneurship Academy will coordinate franchise/business investment opportunities for the player pool. The SEA has identified Afro’s Chicken Shop as the first franchise entity that will be acquired and the SEA plans to open different franchise stores in the foreseeable future depending on the level of commitment and interest from The Sharks rugby players.

Endowment and Investing, which will assist individual players with their personal investments. A Sharks Investment Fund will be formed with investment options being pre-vetted by experts. Lower asset management fees will also be negotiated for the Sharks Investment Fund.

Education Development will provide a granular approach to each player’s individual education needs by facilitating the admin process and providing tutor services to ensure successful completion of studies. Each player’s education background and interests will allow for tailored development plans.

The Life Coaching and Mentoring Programme will provide for the development of a holistic or “fit for plan” career and life plan for players by identifying an individual mentor for each senior player, initially an MVM consortium member.

Post Rugby Career Development of a formal job placement program will include career counselling while The Sharks Player Development Manager will coordinate networking and placement opportunities that are consistent with the business plan.

The sixth and final post rugby career development drive is the Friends of Sharks Rugby, where foundations will be formed in different territories (USA, UK and SA) which will support former players in need of financial assistance.

These non-profits will also provide support in the following areas:

• Education of children

• Healthcare

• Hardship

• Player foundations etc.

The launch of this programme is an innovative and bold approach and The Sharks believe that with proper structures in place, we would effectively be able to manage our most valuable assets throughout their professional careers and most importantly for them to navigate uncharted waters once their rugby careers are complete.