Should Boks ditch 30-cap rule?

Overseas-based players with less than 30 Springbok Tests to their name are not eligible for national duty. As a result, Marcell Coetzee, South Africa’s imposing 28-cap openside flanker, can’t be called up to the Boks when he eventually clears Ulster’s injury list.

Given that South Africa are languishing in sixth place on the world rankings, the AOR team debates whether it’s time to scrap the cap.

Tank Lanning – YES

The two massive trends shaping modern-day rugby involve player movement. Both are powered primarily by currency value as players from the South and the Pacific Islands head North.

Hence the Galactico that is the Baa-Baas-like Toulon side. But they are no longer alone as European club fans play “spot the local” on the team sheet in the pub before the game.

One movement sees players merely seeking fuller wallets, but the other – more disturbing – movement, sees players relocating either in order to play for a different national side, or for a better life that results in them playing for a different national side.

That, of course, powered not only by a lack of faith in SA rugby, but South Africa the nation. Yes, disturbing and sad.

My question: Will needing 30 Bok caps before you can get your next cap in Green and Gold really influence your decision to move?

Perhaps if Rassie Erasmus pulls a rabbit out the hat over the next few months, but given that established All Blacks are now also heading north, I am guessing not.

The other factor worth considering is that, with the rule in place, overseas clubs are now targeting players with less than 30 caps, safe in the knowledge that they will not have to give them up during the official Test windows.

In effect, the 30-cap rule sees overseas clubs targeting the very players the rule was put in place in order to try and stop from moving! How is that for unintended consequences?

Zelím Nel says – NO

After Allister Coetzee broke six records for Springbok losses, SA Rugby holding any kind of cap-rule over the heads of talented players is a bit like mom warning little Johnny that, if he doesn’t eat all his dinner, he won’t be getting any broccoli for dessert.

It’s Bok rugby, not the cap rule, which needs fixing. And hopefully that’s what we can expect with the appointment of Rassie Erasmus, the man who somehow turned the small-town Cheetahs and then the bumbling Stormers into serious contenders before becoming a folk hero in Limerick.

If Coetzee’s successor completes his mission – restoring South Africa to top-three status on the World Rugby rankings to make “Springbok” something that players don’t backspace off their CVs – then the threat of missing out on Test honours will again serve as leverage against lucrative overseas contracts that prey on SA’s weak currency and strong talent pool.

Without that cap rule, elite players with Bok aspirations would have to be quite simple to choose dodging bullets in Randburg over earning five times more while living in pristine Edinburgh.

If anything, the terms of the cap need to be tweaked. Increase the power of the rule so that it remains in place regardless of whether it’s a World Cup year or not – SA Rugby can’t expect players to make career decisions based on a rule that falls away when it comes to the crunch.

And the term needs to be reduced to 20 Tests. Including injuries, form and political meddling, it could take a top player as long as three seasons to earn 30 caps. That’s an investment of almost one third of a long career for a no-guarantees shot at representing South Africa.

You’ve read what they think, now drop a comment to let us know where you stand in The Big Debate!

- Big Debate

Let's chat

  • Rant

    When Steven Kitshoff was convinced to return to SA as the heir to Beast, it was a precedent being set. Imagine how aggrieved he would be if the 30 cap rule was suddenly dropped?

    Rassie has purportedly convinced Duane Vermeulen to return to SA as well. Although he has over 30 caps, it is a move to ensure our top players (and captain?) are based locally.

    Looking at players like Marcell Coetzee, Faf De Klerk, Jan Serfontein, Frans Steyn. They are all players who should not be thrown away. World Class players who are making a huge difference in their current teams who should be convinced to either return to SA or at the very least be following certain criteria and be included in the World Cup year.

    Having said that, I agree that we have the players in South Africa already who can be developed into world beaters. The 30 cap rule cannot appear to fail, it will make SARU look even more incompetent and as such should be retained until post world cup at which time it must be reviewed, along with everything that has happened over the last 8 years to identify failures, successes and forward planning.

    • boyo

      This is exactly what happened to Frans Steyn. He returned to the sharks because at that stage you had to be locally based to play for the boks. He gave up millions and they changed the rule(and thereafter refuse to pay out his imaging right in france)

  • Taufeeq

    I’m with Zelim on this one, make it 50, I don’t care. We need to keep our local sides strong. The main reason NZ has the depth it has is due to the fact that they have 4 strong SR franchises, players come to the camp with confidence, and knowing each other really well. Its a system that works, contrast that with Marcell Coetzee coming in from Ulster, playing alongside Jaco Kriel, who is playing “Lions Rugby”. We need 4 strong teams playing a similar style with a strong group of players, who know each other well. Remember our 07 winning boks, that year had 2 SR finalists from SA….

    • Sharky

      How about this: we dump SANZAAR and move all of our clubs into the European leagues. That way the clubs earn Euros and can afford to pay Euros. Problem solved!

    • Zelim Nel Zelim Nel

      Well said Taufeeq, you make a good point about continuity!

  • Barry Smith

    Not too much to debate really. The evoked ruling has not stemmed the outward flow at all, so the system has failed to deliver what it set out to do! The mention of Thor and Kitshoff are case in point. They have/are going to return, because there is dialogue between them and SA Rugby, not because there are rules in place! The relationship with our overseas players is something that needs to be responsibly managed, not dictated by some silly cap rule!

    • Barry Smith

      Should read “invoked”

  • Barry Smith

    If you consider the cap rule from a player perspective and you are mindful of the quota target of 50%, you will appreciate that there are a mere 7 starting slots for white lads. So in essence the rule is in place to try and retain say 10 players, but what of the other 60, who are not quite in contention? The decision is quite simple for them really!

  • Peter

    Fully agree with Barry Smith and Tank Lanning…..the cap rule has been an abject failure….see the mass exodus of up and coming talent every year…..SA Rugby….instead of focusing on denying that talent the opportunity….should rather question why it is that Rudolf Straeuli and the Lions are the ONLY SA side that has managed to retain the core of their players for three consecutive years….and as a result have been for the last two years finalists in Super rugby.
    What are they doing that Bok coaches and administators should be doing…..a winning consistant culture breeds success….not enforcing firewalls and negative silly rules

  • Arch Rautenbach

    In my opinion the wrong questions are being asked and wrong rules are being implemented. But sticking to the subject, I think it doesn’t really matter. When we had no caps, the players went overseas. Now we have a 30 cap rule and the players are still heading overseas. Australia have a 60 or 70 cap rule and their players still go overseas. And New Zealand have a policy of picking no overseas based players, and still, their players head overseas. The fact of the matter is its almost impossible to keep the players in South Africa. And New Zealand lose about the same amount of players as we do. And by comparison, a players drain should be more devastating to them as they have far less rugby players than we do. A quick google search will tell you that South Africa has the second most registered rugby players in the world, only being beaten by England. South Africa have over 600 000 registered rugby players, where New Zealand only has around 130 000. Yet they are so dominant. Why.

    Well the answer is superior coaching. At all levels. The structures in New Zealand are very different. Traditionally in South Africa, the Bok coach would only worry about the Boks, and the Bulls coach about the Bulls, and the UP Tuks coach about the Tuks team and so on and so forth, with everybody keeping everything to themselves. Where in New Zealand, all Super Rugby coaches must answer to the New Zealand rugby board, and the regional coaches have to report to their department heads and so on and so forth. If there is a union or franchise that are not on par with the standard, they send coaches to assist and upskill everybody. Including the coaches. Imagine the Bulls franchise working with Tuks and Affies for example to upskill the players from school level, and in turn SARU works with the Bulls and vise versa. That’s how the All Black can lose a Richie McCaw and Dan Carter and along with a host of others, and not even feel it much. Its not by chance, its by design.

  • Peter

    Well said Arch Rautenbach…..youve hit the nail slap bang centre mate….proving this caps thing is a load of hogwash!!!

  • Ulrich

    I would like to see things improve in the country first. I am not talking about quotas.

    If the Pound was only 5 times stronger than the Rand we could stem a greater part of the outflow as is the case currently. Let us not forget too that SA in general shows a profit when things at Springbok level run at 55-70%.

    It is not like NZ for whom it is managing losses and taking World Cups, exhibition matches and Lions tours to make profits to serve for the remaining years until the next big event. In the meanwhile they generally operate at a loss.

    The corruption needs to end right from the top and performance should be the only equation.

    I just think without all the corruption rugby would become rugby again from primary up to the Bokke level once again. If that were ever to happen good luck to the rest of the world!

  • Ulrich

    I would also like to point out in reference to my other commet that Gauteng alone is nearing 13M in population.

    What would NZ do with that?

  • Ulrich

    The WC on its own is another NZ population-wise.

    It just sucks knowing we could be so much better than we are.

    In reality the All Blacks should struggle to win against any of our provinces bar maybe the NC home or away given equally good structures as are in place over there.

  • Dean Bright

    SA rugby should central contract the best 200 players in the country and manage them accordingly. That way they have full control. Wouldn’t it be smarter to loan players out to European clubs on a short term basis? Kind of like NZ does with the sabbaticals. While a player is on loan he should be able to represent the Springboks because it’s only for a couple of seasons. That way the player gets his increased pay cheque, which is the main reason why they are leaving but also receives exposure abroad. The players will bring back valuable knowledge. We should be doing the same with our coaches instead of writing them off. NZ are allowing guys like Dave Rennie to leave because they know he will return and bring a wealth of experience back.

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