Cap to chase or keep players?

SA Rugby will this year begin rolling out a contracting model that caps each union’s roster and salary bill, and asks all contracted professional players to commit to playing in South Africa for three years. The AOR team debates whether this will accelerate the exodus overseas or see players commit to staying in South Africa.

Tank Lanning – KEEP
There are always going to be leavers. A daily read of News24 will do that to you! So rugby becomes a mere conduit for that departure, hence the school–leavers jumping on the Montpellier train.

That is a different animal to the end-of-career pension-seekers and those wanting to broaden their horizons using their God-given rugby talent. Unions spending R10m on players under the age of 21 is not going to stop them, and that’s fine. Investing in a player just out of school is a risky business!

The move away from SA Rugby investing in a few marque players is a good one. One cannot be half-pregnant in the central-contracting game, and all it did was put pressure on the coach to select these players, no matter their form, as is the move to select overseas-based players (sadly). Farting against thunder is only fun the first few times.

The most innovative new initiative sees full-time contracted players having to commit to playing in South Africa for three years – four if chosen to represent the Boks.

A commitment, yes, but also clarity and certainty on their future. This instead of the current situation which sees players wondering if their contracts will be extended every October.

It’s not all beer and skittles overseas. New language. New home. New food. No school mates. No family. No Mummy to do the laundry. And more often than not, no sun!

We have our issues, but overall, playing rugby in SA is pretty damn fun!

And having coached two players who made their Super Rugby debuts this year, I can confirm that the desire to test oneself in Super Rugby, and then potentially play for the Boks, remains massive. This model speaks directly to the player we actually want to keep in SA.

Zelím Nel – CHASE
Maybe I’m reading this completely wrong but the only way this new contracting model could ever benefit SA Rugby is if the Top 14 and English Premiership became saturated with Saffas, thereby ‘protecting’ the remnant from lucrative overseas offers.

The short- to mid-term objective seems to be tying up European money with current talent to ensure that, in the future, emerging stars stick around for their share of a R60m salary cap.

Chasing players overseas is therefore inherent to the plan, and overseas they will go.

For a pro athlete, what is the downside of getting paid much more to live in a First World country and perform in a bigger market where your selection is based purely on your playing ability?

The best of every echelon from these shores will pack their bags: Springboks, veteran Super Rugby players and the most promising Junior Boks. Blue-chip school-leavers will also choose to skip the political circus of South African sport.

While this is sure to clog up the mentioned Euro competitions, there is a weakness to the plan that may not have been considered. Broadcasters are far wealthier than even rugby’s millionaire benefactors, and they have an insatiable appetite for content – this was a driving force in Super Rugby’s suicidal expansion.

The point: once the Top 14 and English Premiership are saturated with overseas talent, broadcasters will identify the queue of hopeful Saffas as an opportunity to boost their bouquet of channels with products such as a supercharged Rugby Pro D2, France’s second division.

And, thanks to the hatchet job the government has done on the rand over the past 20 years, local players will still earn far more playing in a European second division than they will at home.  

There are already lots of reasons for SA players to head abroad. Capping the roster and their potential earnings at home widens the highway to the airport.

OK, you’ve read what they think, now let us know which way you’re leaning, or join the #BigDebate on Twitter!

- Big Debate

Let's chat

  • Samoan2678

    I give this new contracting model a thumbs up. Because:
    – This will stop this practise of one union signing all the promising stars coming out of the Craven week.
    – This will strengthen Super rugby teams, because not one team can have 5 springbok quality locks, when another union is battling to even field one good lock as an example.
    – With unions owning the players maybe we will see more springboks participating in the Currie Cup premier division. Which will lead to the revival of the Currie Cup.
    – The Supersport rugby challenge should be used to unearth new talent and not the Currie Cup. Springbok players should play atleast 5 games of Currie Cup per season and not more than 11 games of Super rugby.

  • Deon

    We must understand that rugby is going the same direction as soccer, maybe not the same pace but it’s going there. Brazil is an example of this, most of their players play in Europe for big money, and I’m not against SA players playing rugby in Europe. Caps on number of players contracted and salaries may give us stronger local competitions, but I see problems for many talented schoolboys and late bloomers who did not get a contract. I am thus seeing a new trend that rugby players leave SA earlier, because of many reasons. So nothing will change and yes the Rand do not help.

  • Chris Mouton

    Pardon my ignorance, but where can I find legitimate info about the new contracting system? Only once I’ve read it would I be able to voice my opinion.

  • John Comyn

    Coaches and pundits, like Mallett, having been calling for this for a long time. I’m under correction here but I think Jake was also punting the concept way back. He has subsequently change his thinking. It may not be perfect but it is likely to make make the franchises stronger. Like Zelim says, there is no way to stop players leaving, but it is an improvement on the existing system.

    • samoan2678

      I agree with you John, it will make the franchises stronger. However I feel the downside to this model might be the Springboks. How can SARU really tell a Union to rest key springboks when the UNION is paying the salary of that player?

      • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

        SARU will be topping up the salaries of PONI – Players of National Interest. So will thus have the right to second them for national duty

  • Whynger

    There will be very little money for contracting Craven week players. Only the SA Schools and U/20 sides will be contracted. 60 million is not a lot if you have 45 full professionals contracted. That leaves maybe 15 million for some semi professionals and young players. It simply means that more talent will fall through the cracks and more young players will leave directly after school.

    If you want to become an international, you have to turn pro at a very early age. If you have to hold down a full time job or study a course aimed at a profession, you won’t have the time to put in the work required. So, if you don’t make the cut to be a poni player, where the national union subsidizes your cost to union, you will give up the dream, or leave the country. Seeing that the poni players will probably be selected per quota, as the SA Schools and U/20’s are, quite a number of very capable players will opt to leave to be able to pursue a pro career elsewhere.

    I agree with Zelim. SARU just built a highway to the airport. They are applying a short term solution to a long term problem. The solution is to stop hiring incompetent ex-players as provincial coaches and modernise the country’s playing philosophy. If you play good, attractive, winning rugby, people will attend matches and sponsorships will increase. The game’s current death spiral can be attributed to the poor performances of our provincial sides and the lack of support for club rugby. Get the race politics out of the game as well.

  • Barry

    One must applaud efforts being made to stem the out flow of players, BUT the problem is that the party implementing the system is the party that created the problem in the first instance.

    We have a situation where our rugby is fundamentally run by elected amateur office bearers, who are more inclined to provincial politics and the gravy train than matters of Pro Rugby. Until that structure is changed, we are wasting our time!

    I touched on it yesterday, but let me just emphasize the point again, we “are” in a financial position to keep our pro players at home. It has nothing to do with the state of the Rand because quite simply our contracts with the likes of SANZAAR and Pro 14 are in dollars. If anything it puts us in a more advantageous position because our operating costs are in Rand and way lower than other regions! In simple terms we are in a better position to keep our top players in SA than for example New Zealand are – we are getting the same slice of the dollar pie and our operating costs are lower!

    So why is it then that New Zealand manage to retain players better than SA. Quite simply the dollars that are being earned are not finding there way to the Unions and therefore to the players!

    We have massive SARugby structures to fund and that gents is where the lolly is going! Fix the administrating body and you’ll fix the rest!

  • Herman

    Totally agree Barry but how can we expect the root cause of the problem to do the right thing and fix themselves. Clinging to power at all costs and I mean at all costs, despite the damage caused, is what our power mongers are all about. Lets demand to see where all the money goes and who’s benefiting the most. And not as supplied by SARU but an independent respected team of auditors we can rely on to spill the beans. But then again that won’t happen either for obvious reasons and no doubt fools like us will continue to support this wonderful game of ours despite our total frustration.

    My beating the same drum on these forums year in and year out is the only way I could cope with this ongoing fiasco at times and maybe it’s time do ‘bring the curtain down’ as Elvis once said. Even commenting on these forums is a form of ‘support’ for the clowns that run our rugby because it shows we still care. But then again maybe just one more World Cup. Cheers.

  • Herman

    Kudos to you Zelim for bringing into your argument that the politicos must shoulder some of the blame for our woes. By association SARU and it’s flawed transformation policies is as much to blame for the decline in our rugby as well. I know this will irk some but even Rassie, who embraced these distortions in our team selections, should be held accountable. He took the job despite it’s inherent flaws.

    This is not a colour / merit question either. It’s the principle and the morality of the issue. Any exclusion of a player, even if it’s just one, based on his or her ‘skin colour’ is an abomination and is supposedly rejected across the free world. I say supposedly because why is World Rugby tolerating it ?

    Along with revamping the systems that the ‘powers that be’ are now addressing should be the transformation issue as well. A quick glance at the composition of our teams across the rugby spectrum already shows it is no longer required, so why continue with it.? The desire to play for one’s country should have no artificial impediments imo, surely we have enough problems as it is. Cheers.

  • Nick

    Really pleased with these developments. Makes sense. A typical example of a business concern that needs to ‘go on a diet’ and restructure. Some unions are worse than others in this regard, but we cannot go on giving out contracts like sweets to people who will never end up on the pro/elite end of the game. Kudos to SARFU on this one. It shows genuine strategic foresight.

    Just because boetie se pa is supplying the lamb on the spit for the after game function it should not justify boeties selection. This nepotism is rife as many of us know. Many an aspiring, entitled young man will soon sadly have his rugby dreams shattered. But I guess the easy option and excuse is that it’s because of ‘quota’s’. Prepare yourselves for these full blooded cries of injustice.

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