Tribute has been paid to Mr Harold Verster, whose involvement of more than 50 years in rugby will come to an end shortly when he steps down as Managing Director of the Free State Cheetahs (Pty) Ltd.
The 70-year-old has served the province at all levels with much distinction, and will leave a legacy that will not only be felt in the rugby heartland of the country, but also in the boardrooms of SA Rugby as well.
As a born and bred Free Stater, Mr Verster was involved in rugby in this province as a player and later an administrator, where he first served as president for 19 years before stepping into the role of MD of the Cheetahs in 2011.
“Harold leaves a legacy of a professional franchise running with smooth efficiency, a trusted partner for sponsors and a very competitive high-performance ability on the field,” said Mr Mark Alexander, President of SA Rugby.
“During his time as president, he fought hard for the recognition of the heartland provinces of Free State, Griquas and the Griffons, and that effort culminated in the Cheetahs earning franchise status.
“In this time, the Cheetah brand was established and thanks to strong support from sponsors, they managed to win the coveted Currie Cup five times, with the victory in 2005 ending a 29-year winning drought.”
With the establishment of the Free State Cheetahs (Pty) Ltd in 1997 – a move that was instrumental in pushing the province into the higher echelons of the national game – Mr Verster put his professional qualifications in communications to good use, ensuring the franchise managed to land some big name sponsors.
His time in office was highlighted by two major upgrades to the Free State Stadium, at first for the RWC in 1995, and later with the upgrade of the grand stand for the Soccer World Cup in 2010, all of which upped the capacity to 46 000.
“The drive to make the province more reflective of society was also a success with close to half of the Springboks produced by the Cheetahs since 2004 being players of colour,” added Mr Alexander.
“Harold served his province and region with passion and total commitment and that was recognised by his peers in rugby, with the Cheetahs brand, style of play and status in the game at a very high premium.
“It was fitting that they were included as one of two South African teams to play in an expanded Guinness PRO 14 competition, leaving yet another footprint in the world of rugby, this time by thrilling crowds in Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Italy.”