Boks play­ing over­seas are on borrowed time

CityPress - - Sport - Simnikiwe Xabanisa sports@city­press.co.za Fol­low me on Twit­ter @simx­a­ban­isa

Africa’s key play­ers, go­ing for­ward, will start next year with the lux­ury of hav­ing had an off sea­son, while one wants to come back home to stake his claim (ap­par­ently from the tra­di­tion­ally low-pay­ing Chee­tahs) on the va­cant Bok fly half po­si­tion.

But while this does not sig­nal the over­seas-based play­ers com­ing home en masse, it does go a long way to­wards set­tling the de­bate about whether they should still be free to play in the Bok team or not.

Etze­beth’s, De Al­lende’s and Kriel’s de­ci­sions to skip op­por­tu­ni­ties to top up their cof­fers in favour of good old-fash­ioned rest proves that play­ers leav­ing South Africa for bet­ter cur­ren­cies in the UK, France and Ja­pan is as much about money as it is not. It ob­vi­ously is about money be­cause they leave to make more. But judg­ing by their pick­ing and choos­ing when to do it, poverty was never the rea­son they left in the first place.

I’m not say­ing play­ers, or in­deed their agents in this case, shouldn’t be on the look­out for op­por­tu­ni­ties to make more money while their bod­ies can still take the pound­ing. But for a while now, this has been sold to us a lit­tle as if they’d be ru­ined if they didn’t go over­seas.

Proof that Etze­beth and De Al­lende aren’t wor­ried about such mis­ad­ven­ture is that Western Prov­ince, their em­ployer, have ap­plied for liq­ui­da­tion. I don’t know how it works in rugby, but if my com­pany was be­ing liq­ui­dated I’d do moon­light­ing. It’s start­ing to look as if a sig­nif­i­cant part of why a top Spring­bok would leave South Africa is to earn com­par­a­tively with mates who play there.

My un­der­stand­ing is that, over the last year or so, SA Rugby’s at­tempts to keep play­ers in the coun­try – by pay­ing part of their salaries – mean a top Bok earns up­wards of R5 mil­lion a year.

As a mid­dle-aged man liv­ing on the bread­line, quib­bling over whether you’re mak­ing R3 mil­lion to R5 mil­lion more is a First World prob­lem in my life. So, clearly, money isn’t as much of an is­sue as we’ve been led to be­lieve, so what to do about the over­seas Boks?

To an­swer that ques­tion, we have to look at how many Europe-based Boks have come and ac­tu­ally made a dif­fer­ence in the past. I reckon only Percy Mont­gomery, Fran­cois Louw, Bryan Ha­bana and, to a lesser ex­tent Fourie du Preez, have.

Mont­gomery came back from Wales and ba­si­cally kicked the Boks to World Cup glory; Louw left South Africa as a blind­side flanker and re­turned an ex­cel­lent fetcher; and while Ha­bana may be slower than he used to be, he hasn’t stopped scor­ing and putting his body on the line.

Du Preez looked like a mil­lion bucks when he re­turned from in­ter­na­tional re­tire­ment and played club rugby in Ja­pan in 2013, but that was be­cause he’d had two sea­sons to re­ju­ve­nate.

Usu­ally a player com­ing back from the north­ern hemi­sphere seems to be a yard off the pace

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