He succeeds another former Springbok, Rudolf Straeuli, the CEO of the Lions, who has stepped down after several years in the role.

SAREO is the representative council of the professional and amateur rugby employers in South Africa, managing relationships with the players’ union (MyPlayers – SARPA) and the non-playing employees (Sport Employees Unite (SEU)) representing employers’ interests to SA Rugby.

Manana, 44, steps up from the role of vice-chairman, which has now been taken by Edgar Rathbone, the CEO of the Bulls.

The balance of the executive is made up of Veda Manie (SWD), Eduard Coetzee (Sharks), Pieter Burger (Ellis Park (Pty) Ltd), Eugene Fourie (Leopards) and SA Rugby representative, Ian Schwartz.

Outgoing chairman Straeuli said: “SAREO performs a central role in the rugby industry, and I am very pleased to see Thando take the step up. He has seen the sport from every angle as a player, coach, journalist and broadcaster and now as an administrator and brings broad and diverse experience to the role.”

Manana toured with the Springboks in 2000 and played for EP, Griquas, the Bulls, Griffons and Blackrock College (Ireland) in his professional career and has coached at club level (Spring Rose and Motherwell). He worked as broadcaster for 15 years and has been EP’s general manager since 2019. 

Manana said: “I’d like to thank the membership for placing their trust in me at this very difficult time for our business. Our members fulfil multiple roles in their communities, but our lifeblood is getting fans through the gate, and we all know what a challenge that has been for almost two years.

“In order for this to happen, we as employers require sound and constructive relationships with our employees on the field, next to the field and off the field of play and we are pleased that MyPlayers and Sport Employees Unite share the same vision with SAREO in this regard.

“There are undoubtedly more tough times ahead but SAREO’s members have endured much in the past 21 years since we were founded, and that resilience will stand us in good stead as we emerge from the shadow of the pandemic.”