Celebrating the Rugby Centurions
In 2017 an elite society of exceptional sports people gathered for the first time thanks to philanthropist and businessman Gavin Varejes. Named the Rugby Centurions, the society was launched by Varejes, and is made up of players who have represented their country in at least 100 test matches, and are now ready to do their part in giving back to the game that played such an important role in their lives. The launch of the Rugby Centurions took place in London in late 2017 at the Hilton Metropole Hotel.
A tough membership to crack
Globally recognised as being a particularly tough membership to achieve, only three in every 1,000 rugby players ever reach the impressive milestone of 100 test matches. The athletes who have made this prestigious achievement, and are selected to be a Centurion, take part in a range of projects that include erecting plaques that honour each member, and creating illustrated books and art collections with the goal of celebrating rugby history. There are also plans to produce a documentary and to launch a clothing line.
Gavin Varejes and John Smit are excited about the Centurions
Founded by Gavin Varejes and under the management of former Springbok Captain and World Cup Winner John Smit, the idea behind the Rugby Centurions initiative is to honour the legends of the sport who have dedicated their lives to developing it. The society aims to bring these champion athletes together to celebrate their valuable contributions to rugby while becoming involved with coordinated efforts to promote the sport at grassroots level. The Centurions are also using rugby to help in any way they can, whether it is taking the sport to places it’s never been before, or helping to uplift vulnerable communities. Together with Varejes and Smit, they are geared to give back in any way they can while inspiring others with their integrity, discipline and unbridled passion on and off the playing field.
"The right man for the job", says Gavin Varejes about Ryk Neethling, the newly appointed CEO of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation in SA
Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation in SA has recently announced the appointment of Ryk Neethling, Olympic swimming champion to the voluntary position of CEO. This is after his year-long service as an ambassador to the foundation, working with Francois Pienaar and Terence Parkin.
Neethling is often praised by key figures, supporting his nomination to the position. Among these is Princess Charlene, who said that "Ryk is a true champion — a man of integrity‚ talent and remarkable inner strength. He is passionate about water safety and will‚ I know‚ take
my foundation from strength to strength in SA". Also Gavin Varejes, businessman and president of the foundation said that "Ryk is certainly one of the greatest swimmers this country has seen and he is keen to use his influence as an athlete to inspire young people and uplift communities. We are all thrilled that he has chosen to take on this new role — he is the right man for the job".
Last June, Neethling and former Springbok rugby player, Percy Montgomery, won the Riviera Water Bike Challenge, which, in the name of the foundation, managed to raise sufficient funds to build an aquatic rescue center in Burkina Faso, a project which is organized in partnership with the Monaco Red Cross and the Burkinabe Red Cross Society. The ProAm race, the first of its kind, spread over 21 km from Nice to Monaco on water bikes.
Neethling's concern is justified. According to the World Health Organization, over 60,000 children under the age of five and over 360,000 people worldwide die by drowning each year, making drowning the second leading cause of accidental death after road accidents, according to the foundation.
Notwithstanding his new responsibilities as CEO, Neethling is also an ambassador for Hope Through Action and is involved in the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation SA. His personal story is what makes Neethling believe in the important of the foundation. At the age of 5 he went through a near-death experience. But rather than shy away from water Neethling went on to pursue a successful swimming career, which he then used to spread awareness to water safety. Alongside Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene, a friend of 25 years, he began representing SA at international swimming competitions. Neethling's dedication to the foundation's goal is clear: "It is an incredible honour for me to now be entrusted with the task of leading her foundation here in our country", he says, "the cause is a critical one".
Death by drowning is a pressing matter. It is the second leading cause of accidental death after road accidents, with over 60,000 children under the age of five and over 360,000 people worldwide dying each year, according to the World Health Organization.
In 2016, only 4 years after its establishment, the foundation carried out 23 projects in SA. Thanks to these, 2,507 children were taught to swim and 27,242 children were taught about essential water safety skills. Last month, as part of its efforts to increase water safety awareness, the foundation has partnered with Lifesaving SA.
In its short life, the foundation has already seen major successes. Over 300,000 people worldwide are now aware and support its goal to reduce death by drowning by focusing on teaching children swimming and crucial water safety skills.
On Wednesday the 26th of July 2017 Princess Charlene of Monaco was appointed as South Africa’s Patron of Lifesaving. Dylan Tommy, President of Lifesaving South Africa and Gavin Varejes, President of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation in SA spoke at the event which was held at the prestigious Beverly Hills Hotel in Umhlanga, Durban. It was attended by Princess Charlene’s brother Gareth Wittstock and several South African sports legends like the rugby player ‘Beast’ Tendai Mtawarira and surfing legends Pat Flanagan and Shaun Tomson.
Her Serene Highness is Passionate About Water Safety
Princess Charlene of Monaco is an avid swimmer with over 20 years’ experience in the water. She represented South Africa in the Olympic Games and established the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation. Since it was founded in 2012 the foundation has reached more than 300,000 people around the world and has become well-known for teaching children how to swim and the essentials of water safety. Princess Charlene said that she is grateful for the honour of being named South Africa’s Patron of Lifesaving by an association that is also passionate about preventing deaths by drowning.
Dylan Tommy Thanks Princess Charlene and Gavin Varejes
During the course of the evening Gavin Varejes announced that the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation in SA will be donating 200 rescue boards to Lifesaving SA. Generously backed by by Cell C and Richmark Holdings, the donation is valued at over R2 million. Lifesaving SA President Dylan Tommy thanked Princess Charlene and Gavin Varejes for their valued contribution to improving Lifesaving in South Africa as a social endeavour, and as a sport. Princess Charlene was described as an inspiration to the global community when it comes to water safety and education. Varejes is known for his generous support of sport in South Africa through organisations like SA Surfing Legends and SA Rugby Legends.
In a lavish event at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Durban, the Patron of SA Lifesaving was chosen to be Princess Charlene of Monaco. Lifesaving enthusiasts like the President of Lifesaving SA, Dylan Tommy and the President of the SA faction of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation Gavin Varejes attended the event.
Water Safety is Priority for the Princess
With over two decades spent in the water as an Olympic swimmer representing South Africa, being selected as the SA Lifesaving is a highly appropriate designation for Princess Charlene. As a young girl growing up in South Africa, she discovered that she loves the water and started swimming competitively. For 20 years Princess Charlene spent her days in swimming pools and eventually represented her home country at the Olympics in Sydney in 2000. With water safety in mind the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation was started, and over 300,000 individuals across the globe have since been positively impacted by it. The foundation’s objective is to teach children basic water safety skills and to make people aware of the dangers of water.
Rescue Boards Donated by Gavin Varejes
As the President of the South African chapter of the Princess Charlene of Monaco, Gavin Varejes made the announcement that the foundation would donate 200 rescue boards to lifesaving clubs affiliated with Lifesaving SA. The substantial donation is one of many endorsements undertaken by Varejes who is known for his liberal contributions to South African sport and lifesaving. According to the businessman and former lifesaver the affiliation and goodwill between the two organisations will act as encouragement for different organisations to work together towards common goals. Corporate giants like the mobile phone network Cell C and Richmark Holdings share this sentiment and provide unprecedented backing.
What do you get when you combine South Africa’s favourite mobile phone network with great weather, great surfers and awesome waves? A world-class surfing event of course! The excitement is mounting and surfing enthusiasts will hopefully soon be making their way to sunny Durban for the Cell C Goodwave Surfing event which is presented by South African Surfing Legends and sanctioned as a speciality event by the World Surf League.
Stuff Legends Are Made of
Founded by legendary South African surfer Barry Wolins, the event is an all-out competition focused on challenging the technical ability, stamina and determination of contestants with their eye on R100,000 in prize money. With a sudden death format surfers will compete in four-man heats until one person is left to claim the prize. Wolins is no newbie to the South African surfing scene. He has been taking on waves for almost five decades and is using his expertise now to mentor talented young surfers in the country with the help of the South African Surfing Legends organisation. The organisation believes that this kind of skillset and passion has great potential to positively impact young South African surfers to do their country proud.
An Exclusive Contest Made Possible by Gavin Varejes and Barry Wolins
What makes the Goodwave surfing event unique is that it is only held when the weather conditions are ideal for big swells. The date is only set when weather experts give the go-ahead and surfers are only given 48 hours’ notice before the event takes place. It is also by invitation only and this year a total of 64 South African surfers have received such an invitation – and eclectic mix of 32 competitors, and 32 alternates. Some are well-known names in South African surfing and others are freshly discovered talent. According to Gavin Varejes the event is a fine example of how surfing legends can promote local surfing and keep the South African flag flying with honour.
As chairman of Richmark holdings and as a leading philanthropist, Gavin Varejes certainly knows how to get things done. Central to his many achievements is a remarkable capacity to bring people together for desirable projects, and it is this quality that is enabling Varejes to foster the growth of rugby in an apparently unlikely location, Lithuania. The world of South African rugby is currently involved in a major exchange program that will impart traditional skills and knowledge to the developing sport in Lithuania. Varejes is playing an important part in this program, particularly in its assistance to accomplished club Enerstena.
The Motivations behind Gavin Varejes’s Sports Philanthropy
The whole endeavour is close to Varejes’s heart as a South African patriot, as the son of a Lithuanian father and as a sports fan with an unsurpassed love and knowledge of rugby. Varejes has long believed in the potential of sport as an agent of human progress, and this led him to co-found the South African rugby Legends charity back in 2001. That organization is now the foremost sports charity in South Africa, and its success reflects Varejes’s firm belief that his beloved country, having overcome the trials of its difficult history, has a great deal to offer other nations in both material and creative terms.
Realistic Hope for the Future
Varejes approaches the task of developing rugby in Lithuania with real passion and with a strong belief that the country can make its mark in the world of rugby before long. To support his conviction, he cites the example of Argentina, which is now an established force in a game it only began to play at a serious level in the late 1960s early 1970s. Varejes also points out that, despite its small population, Lithuania is second only to the United States in international basketball. When it has the same effective structure in place that underpinned its successes in basketball, he observes, Lithuanian rugby can enjoy similar triumphs.
Princess Charlene hosts South African event to highlight need for water-safety awareness
A social gathering in Sandton, South Africa, on April 21, 2017, was held to promote awareness of the importance of water-safety awareness and the risk of death by drowning. The gathering was organised by the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation, which ceaselessly publicises the risk of death by drowning, one of the major factors responsible for unintentional loss of life on the planet. The princess’s organisation was set up to foster increasing consciousness of this most serious risk while also providing young people with swimming lessons and making important safety strategies available to them. Speaking at the event, Princess Caroline provided an overview of the Foundation’s mission and motivations. Among those listening were some of South Africa’s leading sports people and many prominent individuals from the country’s commercial and cultural sectors.
Princess Charlene hosts South African event to highlight need for water-safety awareness
Richmark Holdings’ chairman, Gavin Varejes, who acts as the Foundation’s president in South Africa, made a most important point when he emphasised the greater risk that lack of water-safety awareness poses to children in areas marked by poverty and marginalisation. Varejes observed that because South Africa’s future rests on the capacity of its young people to live safely and productively, the objective of preventing avoidable deaths by drowning is essential for the entire country. Princess Charlene noted that the essential task of instructing children in water safety may be effectively carried out simply by instructing individual children, families and neighbourhoods in turn and using this work as the foundation on which to build.
While in South Africa, the princess also revisited Gugulesizwe Primary School to inspect the progress of the now-very-productive vegetable garden that she gave to pupils and their community as a gift in 2012.
Nelson’s Mandela Celebrated in New Art Exhibition
New perspectives on the life of Nelson Mandela were on show at an exhibition of John Meyer’s paintings of the great South African leader. A private viewing of the exhibition held in Johannesburg on February 23rd, 2017, enabled South Africans to see the show before it embarks on a tour of major artistic centres around the world. The 16 featured works, rendered in acrylics and sand-on-canvas, were loaned for the exhibition by their owner, Richmark Holdings CEO Andrew Dunn, who initially commissioned Meyer to produce them.
Art Reveals the Inner Mandela
Creativity and South Africa’s Future
The contribution made to the Mandela exhibition by Richmark holdings is entirely fitting, given Richmark’s determination to boost South African society in cultural terms as well as commercial ones. Ever since it was established at the beginning of the 21st century by entrepreneur and philanthropist Gavin Varejes, Richmark has focused on the task of supporting creativity by backing young entrepreneurs as they establish the businesses and visions that will sustain South Africa in the great years that lie ahead.
Goodbye old Friend
At the memorial service of South African Rugby Legend Joost van der Westhuizen, SARLA President and Executive Chairman of Richmark Holdings, Gavin Varejes spoke from the heart about his close longtime friend. Six years after receiving a diagnosis of motor neuron disease and being given two years to live, in April of 2011, Joost finally succumbed to the disease.
The Start of a Beautiful Friendship
With a mutual passion for rugby, Gavin Varejes and Joost van der Westhuizen became friends practically the minute they met, almost 20 years ago. Both were active in promoting South African rugby through SARLA, Joost was the captain of the team, and they spent a fair amount of time on rugby related projects together. In early 2011, van der Westhuizen was working at one of the Richmark Group companies and Varejes became concerned with his performance, his stride was unstable and his speech was slurred. When he discussed his worries with his close friend, he too became alarmed and began medical examinations. It wasn't long before Joost learned he had MND and wouldn’t live longer than another two years. When he told Varejes the bad news, they both cried together, but Joost quickly gathered his mental strength and trademark optimism and refused to let the diagnosis stop him from following his passions.
Legendary Rugby Player and Man
Instead of giving up on life, Joost went full-steam ahead with his SARLA projects, together with Gavin Varejes. He even started a new Foundation with the goal of creating global awareness of MND - the J9 Foundation, which he continued to develop until the very end. Joost was a loyal friend with a positive attitude that inspired the nation. Whether it was on the rugby field or in everyday life, he gave his followers something to believe in – even during his darkest hours. Many valuable lessons about integrity, friendship, family values and brotherhood were learned from Joost. Until his tragic passing this legend was a living example of the power of persistence, no matter what life sends your way.
The Sainte Dévote Rugby Sevens Tournament - an Opportunity of a Lifetime
When it comes to sport in South Africa there is no shortage of talent. Fortunately, athletes are also receiving increasing levels of support from corporate sponsors like Cell C and business people like Gavin Varejes – CEO of Richmark Holdings and President of the South African Rugby Legends Association (SARLA). Recently SARLA started collaborating with Cell C, the Monaco Rugby Federation and the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation on a new and exciting initiative. The aim of their collaboration is to give underprivileged youth from disadvantaged areas in the Western Cape Province an opportunity to experience and participate in an International Rugby Sevens Tournament. Thanks to this initiative, youngsters will be able to take part in the 3rd Sainte Dévote Tournament held in Monaco in March 2017. The Sainte Dévote Tournament is an international Sevens challenge for children and youth that promotes solidarity, generosity, mutual respect and fair play. This is the third time South Africa is taking part in this special event. The tournament and surrounding events demonstrate how effective and uplifting sporting initiatives of this sort can be for young members of the community. Besides exploring a new and exhilarating destination, the young athletes have an opportunity to experience cultural exchanges, broaden their horizons and develop teamwork skills while achieving phenomenal personal growth, and, of course, having fun.
Gavin Varejes – Promoting SA Rugby
President of SARLA, Gavin Varejes is a businessman who is deeply devoted to South African sports development. He firmly believes that sport not only has physical value but also offers a wide range of other benefits to players. His experience has taught him that participation in team sports helps young players learn important life lessons and develop essential values like determination, fellowship and sportsmanship. A tournament like this has the power to inspire participants to improve their achievements, not only on the field, but also in their personal and future professional lives. Varejes has expressed sincere gratitude to Cell C for their continuous support without which this initiative would not be possible. Stefan Terblanche, CEO of SARLA says he is looking forward to the tournament and is excited about making the dreams of 12 young rugby-fanatics come true.
South African Rugby Legends Association
SARLA is an association that works with local underprivileged children and youths to develop the game of rugby at grassroots level while representing professional rugby players who have reached their retirement. These former players are known as the ‘Legends’ and remain active in the field by hosting and facilitating tours, functions and events and by going to poverty stricken areas and providing sports coaching clinics. SARLA also runs a rugby development initiative known as ‘Vuka’. For several years Vuka has been assisting thousands of youngsters from 65 schools in the Western Cape area to become valuable members of their society. The initiative helps these youngsters to develop themselves through sport activities. By rolling out these programmes, which are endorsed by the South African Rugby Union, SARLA is creating an all year round sustainable initiative to benefit the local communities while celebrating the South African rugby tradition.