The loss of the rugby sponsorship comes just days after South African Breweries unveiled a major corporate rebranding exercise. The brewer is keen to stress its South African heritage, and will be sponsoring the 'Great South Africans' television program to reinforce this message. It should prove a shrewd move, compensating effectively for its rugby defeat.

The brewer's old beer tankard corporate identity is being replaced with a fresh, circular design and it has embedded "The South African Breweries" into its identity to reinforce its South African personality.

According to the company, the identity and brand campaign are part of a major drive "to reassert its South African identity and acknowledge the role of South Africans in its global expansion and success". The change is a reaction to the problems caused by parent company SABMiller's widespread growth outside the country. South African Breweries now believes this has led to some confusion over what the brewer actually means to South Africa.

Given the enthusiasm that surrounds rugby and the nation's respected 'Springbok' team, SAB will undoubtedly be disappointed to have been ousted by Sasol, the industrial fuels firm, as the team's principal sponsor.

However, it seems destined to continue using sponsorship and event audiences to affirm its South African roots. SAB is now looking for other ways to support sport in the country and it is already sponsoring the nation's soccer sides, something that will surely prove rewarding as the sport's popularity grows in the build up to World Cup 2010. Equally it retains sponsorship of the nation's test cricket team - something that it should perhaps promote to a greater degree following the loss of the rugby, as cricket still remains considerably more popular in South Africa than soccer.

The Springboks endorsement blow will also be cushioned by SAB's sponsorship of the television series 'Great South Africans', based on the BBC's 'Great Britons' programs. South Africans have been invited to nominate their greatest ever compatriots, with more than 95% of the populace being reached through the campaign. The series is likely to drum up considerable controversy and therefore exposure for the brewer, and should serve as an effective means of reinforcing SAB as a great South African brand.