If you ask his many fervent supporters, they will all tell you new EP Rugby Union president Andre Rademan is definitely a man with a plan. It was appropriate Rademan decided to sport a snazzy red jacket on the day he was elected to the hottest seat in South African rugby last week.
Not only is red a colour most associate with EP Rugby, but for those of a superstitious nature it is also regarded as one of the lucky colours. Rademan certainly stood out in the crowd during a tense four-way election battle at a packed voting hall at the Cape Recife School.
Rademan will need to be a president with a stomach for a fight, because he is taking over the EP Rugby when it is perhaps at its lowest ebb. The successful businessman knows the road ahead will be tough and that he will need the full support of the rugby community and business leaders in the Eastern Cape.
He played rugby until the age of 34 as a loose forward, and was later a referee until 2003. In 2012, Rademan was elected president of Crusaders, and served in that position until 2014.
This EP election signalled a total changing of the guard after the highly eventful reign of Rademan’s predecessor, Cheeky Watson. In fact, two of the most outspoken critics of Watson will now be Rademan’s closest allies.
The new deputy president of the union is Bantwini Matika, while Chico February will fill the role of vice-president.
“I was positive that we were going to win, we put together a very good team,” Rademan said. “We rode over 4 000 kilometres to see the clubs. We went to see why club rugby is hurting and what is going on in the country areas. “We went to Tsitsikamma, Colesberg, Graaff-Reinet and Loerie. We visited all those places. “We saw what is going on at club rugby, and club rugby is in absolutely chaos. We went to see what is going on in schools and also with the referees. “It does not help that we concentrate on the Currie Cup and Super Rugby, but the foundation of our rugby is busy falling apart.”
Rademan has promised that he will deliver clean administration to clubs.
“The first thing about my administration, and I will tell you straight, is that it is clean administration. The media must know I have no secrets. You can write anything as long as it is the truth.
“We will have a budget which we will stick to. I am a businessman and I will stick to financial disciplines and good relations with our clubs, referees, schools and players.” Asked why he had decided to stand for the presidency at this difficult time in the union’s history, Rademan said: “I am a successful businessman, thanks to the grace of the Lord. The clubs came to see me and they said they wanted someone who could change EP.
“I told them they must remember it will be run like a business. I want to make EP proud and to serve the rugby public of Port Elizabeth. I put down conditions and they accepted them. “Then we went through a sifting process and there were 28 candidates for the various posts that came down to seven. I think we picked the best people to serve the rugby community. That is what it is about.”
Rademan said he wanted to address the issue of rugby supporters.
“How can a club game between Police and Park attract 7 000 people and on the same day at the Southern Kings against the Lions there are 4 000 people? “The stadium is empty and so are the hospitality boxes. These are things that need to be addressed.”
Rademan said he had been heartened by the response of clubs when it was announced that he had won the election.
“When I looked around me and saw the people clapping, that made me certain we are on the right track and when I saw the people it looked like an outright majority. “When that happened I sensed responsibility, because those people believe in what you are going to do so the responsibility is tremendous. “It is easy to say I want to be president of EP Rugby, but what are you going to do? In four years from now, and I said I would stand for one term and step away, I want to leave a legacy and change it. Then it will all be worth it.”
One of Rademan’s priorities is to get much-needed sponsors on board.
“EP must get their discipline back. Sponsors are not going to put money into EP Rugby if there is no discipline. “We must bring discipline, accountability and transformation back. We must not talk about transformation, we must bring it back.
“Having a team working with you and believing in what you do makes it much easier. A dictator won’t stand for always. He will stand for a short term and then he is gone. If you are democratic, you stand with people and take them with you.
“The biggest challenges are the financial problems and to get our clubs back to where they should be. “This is not just a thing about me and my committee. This is a thing for the community. If we are going to fix EP Rugby then the community must stand together. “We want to bring the game back to the people who deserve it. Rugby is there for the people .
“We love the game that is why I made myself available. We want to get the stadium full and bring the pride back to EP Rugby back again. “That is going to be hard. We are under no illusions, we know that there is hard work ahead.”
Rademan’s executive committee got an early taste of things to come only minutes after he was elected. He told them they would be meeting the following day at 3pm in the EPRU conference room to begin plotting the revival of the troubled union. He is, as his supporters claim, a man with a plan.