Play­ers Pounded out of SA

CityPress - - Sport -

South African rugby play­ers are re­garded as royal game and be­ing hunted by over­seas clubs for mas­sive sums.

SA Rugby is fight­ing a los­ing bat­tle against the strength of the euro and the pound. Even though they have se­cured more than 20 top Spring­boks with SA Rugby Union con­tracts, it will not stem the flow.

It is widely spec­u­lated that even the top 20 Boks have al­ready re­ceived mas­sive of­fers and want to leave the coun­try.

Rugby agents add that their clients are queu­ing up to ex­ploit the ex­change rate and a mas­sive ex­o­dus of play­ers is com­ing this year if the rand does not im­prove.

In the past two weeks, two more young Spring­bok stars com­mit­ted them­selves to Euro­pean clubs, with Mar­cel Coetzee swap­ping Dur­ban for Ul­ster (Ire­land) and Mar­cel van der Merwe mov­ing to Toulon (France) af­ter Su­per Rugby. They were of­fered huge sums to play in Europe.

Ac­cord­ing to in­formed sources, Coetzee’s con­tract is nearly R11 mil­lion per year, while Van der Merwe’s – if ac­com­mo­da­tion and air­line tick­ets are in­cluded – comes to R9 mil­lion per year. The 20-plus top Spring­boks are paid about R5 mil­lion per year be­tween their pro­vin­cial and Spring­bok con­tracts.

Bok iron man Duane Vermeulen’s con­tract with Toulon is worth about R12.75 mil­lion per year, and Fran­cois Louw gets R8.8 mil­lion from Bath.

Dan Carter re­mains the high­est­paid player in Europe, with his con­tract worth more than R20 mil­lion per sea­son.

It is be­com­ing clearer that the cur­rent ex­change rate will have a great im­pact on South African rugby. On the one hand, it means SA Rugby will earn more in­come un­der its San­zaar con­tract (it is paid in dol­lars), but with in­creas­ing costs and the fact that the pot of money is shared by 14 rugby unions, it is im­pos­si­ble to keep all its play­ers in the coun­try.

Ac­cord­ing to SA Rugby’s an­nual cal­en­dar, which ap­peared on the shelves this week, there are now 285 South African pro­fes­sional rugby play­ers ply­ing their trade abroad. While the list also in­cludes the Spring­boks play­ing in Ja­pan, it does not in­clude play­ers who have played over­seas in the past three months. Cur­rently, there are 180 con­tracted play­ers who will play for the six lo­cal Su­per Rugby unions this year.

There are fears that the ex­o­dus will be seen in this year’s Su­per tour­na­ment, with all six teams strug­gling with squad depth and Saru’s trans­for­ma­tion poli­cies also not help­ing to keep young play­ers in the coun­try. Bulls coach Nol­lis Marais ad­mit­ted last week “the middle” group of play­ers is gone – th­ese are play­ers be­tween 24 and 27 – with many Su­per teams made up of a group of se­nior play­ers with a ma­jor­ity of new­com­ers.

The Storm­ers’ new coach, Rob­bie Fleck, said at the an­nounce­ment of the Su­per tour­na­ment in Jo­han­nes­burg that teams’ depth would be tested. “We have qual­ity play­ers, but we also have a lot of young play­ers. Our av­er­age age at the Storm­ers is 22, and our se­nior play­ers are young, even though they have had test ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Depth is ev­ery­thing in a tour­na­ment like this and South African teams will strug­gle be­cause there are so many play­ers who are now play­ing over­seas. There are many new faces this year, and that in­cludes the man­age­ment.”

SA Rugby’s pol­icy on over­seas play­ers is be­ing ques­tioned in in­ner cir­cles, es­pe­cially af­ter Bok Fran­cois Hougaard was al­lowed to chase money by play­ing at Worces­ter for eight weeks rather than for the Bulls in the Su­per Rugby.

Hougaard’s con­tract is held by SA Rugby and they had to give per­mis­sion for the move. Ques­tions were raised this week about the prece­dent it held for fu­ture moves.

A lot of Spring­boks were also given per­mis­sion to earn mil­lions in Ja­pan in the off sea­son, but there is wide­spread dis­sat­is­fac­tion among the provinces about this, es­pe­cially af­ter Damian de Al­lende and Han­dré Pol­lard were in­jured while abroad.

An­other is­sue SA Rugby is fight­ing is the in­flu­ence of rugby agents on play­ers’ de­ci­sions. In Hougaard’s case, his agent would have re­ceived noth­ing if he had signed for match fees with the Bulls, but he was in line for an es­ti­mated R200 000 com­mis­sion if Hougaard signed in Eng­land.

That agents “per­suade” clients to chase big money over­seas – so that they can get good com­mis­sions – is a sen­si­tive is­sue in both SA Rugby and pro­vin­cial cir­cles.

– Rap­port

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