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Land Rover is one of the most steadfastly innovative, pioneering and adventurous automotive brands in the world, but it isn’t all just about mud-flinging and bundu-bashing. This legendary marque has now aligned itself with South Africa’s most prestigious and glamorous annual event – the Miss South Africa competition.

As part of its official sponsorship programme for the pageant, Miss South Africa 2006, Megan Coleman, will be handed the keys to a brand new Freelander 2 – the latest and highly anticipated version of this popular sports utility vehicle.

The original Freelander was launched in 1997, and proved immensely successful around the world. The exciting all-new 2007 Freelander 2 continues this legacy with the promise of even greater levels of comfort, luxury, space, safety, performance and all-terrain ability.

Although Coleman received a Discovery 3 at the official hand-over function held at Land Rover Waterford near Fourways on Tuesday 16 January, she will enjoy the use of a Freelander 2 once this exciting new model is launched in April.

“Land Rover South Africa elected to become involved in the Miss South Africa competition last year as we believe the event and Miss SA possess similar qualities to Land Rover that would make it a mutually beneficial partnership, and this includes charisma, prestige, refinement and finesse,” explains Dawid van der Merwe, sales and marketing director for Land Rover SA.

At face value, the synergies between Land Rover and a glamorous pageant may not seem all that obvious, but as Van der Merwe explains, Land Rover’s modern product range is more sophisticated and upmarket than ever before, while retaining the essential off-road heritage and legendary ability that remains fundamental to the brand.

“Land Rover may be based on a tough 4×4 image, but with progressive and dynamic products such as the Discovery 3, Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and the upcoming Freelander, we are attracting new customers that demand more style, luxury, refinement, sophistication and class – qualities that are reflected in our current line-up, and the Miss South Africa competition.”

However, this partnership goes beyond simply supplying transport for the glamorous and high-profile title-holder. Indeed, Land Rover’s involvement extends to Miss South Africa’s nominated support programme for the Tapologo Aids Hospice.

Situated between Rustenburg and Sun City, the Tapologo sanctuary provides ongoing care and support programmes for those living with HIV. Tapologo means “place of rest and peace” – a fitting and poignant description of this remarkable facility.

Coleman will be the face of Sun International’s Tapologo Aids Hospice throughout the year of her reign. The Freelander 2 will assist her while travelling around the country, while Land Rover SA will extend its support by providing additional resources for the Tapologo facility and the associated Miss SA campaign.

Land Rover is currently involved in a large number of social responsibility programmes, including the Venetia-Limpopo Wild Dog Project, Kingsley Holgate’s African Rainbow Expedition and his ‘One Net One Life’ campaign to distribute mosquito nets throughout Southern Africa in an effort to save lives through malaria prevention.

“We feel that Land Rover’s ongoing commitment to social responsibility complements that of the Miss SA organisation, and our alignment to the Tapologo programme makes perfect sense in the context of our sponsorship of this competition, and our broader community involvement,” Van der Merwe says.

“We trust that our combined efforts will benefit the facility, its dedicated staff and patients, continuing Tapologo’s legacy as a place of hope, healing and compassion.”

The Tapologo Aids Hospice is very dear to highly motivated 21-year-old Coleman, a part-time model and media communications and marketing graduate from Hillcrest in KwaZulu-Natal.

“My heart lies with Tapologo,” she says. “We visited the facility with Land Rover during the Miss SA competition, and it impacted on my life in a big way. It made me realise how severe the HIV problem really is in South Africa.

“I am very happy that Land Rover is involved in the project as well, and we will definitely be at Tapologo as much as possible during the year, and I hope that we can make a real difference there.”

One of Coleman’s stated objectives is to establish workshops that promote the value of women in society by encouraging a sense of self-worth, and the Tapologo project is an important step towards achieving this goal.

With her stunning good looks, undeniable charm and outgoing personality, Coleman experienced a meteoric rise to stardom, being crowned Miss Ushaka in 2005 and following this up with South Africa’s premier Miss SA crown in December 2006.

Indeed, her automotive exposure has followed a similar path, progressing virtually overnight from a VW Citi Golf to the luxury of a sponsored Land Rover.

“I am very excited about driving a Land Rover,” Coleman says. “I’ve always thought of Land Rover as a man’s vehicle, and I am certainly looking forward to changing stereotypes.

“It’s also nice that this vehicle is something different as Land Rover has never sponsored Miss South Africa before.

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