Coming soon: Club OR Country

Approximately one quarter of surveyed Test players have been pressured by their clubs not to turn out for their respective national teams and, probably as a consequence, more than half think internationals should not be played outside the official Test window.

These were the results of a survey conducted by IRP, the “official representative body for professional rugby players”, in October and November on over 350 internationals from all 20 of the countries that have qualified for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

“The survey highlighted the issue of player release, with almost a quarter of players surveyed admitting they had been put under pressure by their club not to play for their country. Of that, 40% had succumbed to this pressure,” said an IRP press release.

This is an issue that is sure to become more prevalent in the coming years as SA Rugby switches to a match-fees model for paying Springboks, while Rassie Erasmus has been given free rein to select overseas-based players.

The move is sure to flood Europe with lots of South African talent, perhaps with the twin intention of driving down the value of offers while increasing the risk to club owners that members of their foreign legion will regularly be called up for Test duty.

Judging from the survey, players do not want to be stuck in the middle of this tug of war – they’d prefer World Rugby to set and enforce the boundaries so that they can maximise their earning potential from club and country without every having to be the bad guy.

But it won’t be long before club owners make the players choose between signing a big-money contract on the proviso that they officially retire from international rugby, or accept a lesser deal to remain available for Test call-ups.

The survey also revealed that 45% of players had been pressured to play or train when not fully fit, while one third missed at least six matches last season due to injury.

“Players are highlighting player load as a real issue and talking about being overburdened in training or playing too many matches,” said IRP chief Omar Hassanein.

In the South African context, the players’ call for a lesser load is contradicted by many choosing to spend their offseason playing rugby in Japan.

A similar dichotomy revealed itself in questions related to safety matters. Feedback that players had been pressured, presumably by coaches, to play or train when not fully fit is counterbalanced by the admission that players can’t be trusted to be honest about the symptoms of concussion-related injuries.

“The fact that some players felt the need to hide symptoms of a head knock so that they can start the return-to-play protocols means authorities have to take the decisions out of the hands of players,” said IRP spokesman, Rob Nichol.

— Staff Writer

- All Out Rugby Staff Writer

Let's chat

  • Barry

    If World Rugby had it’s act together, then we would have a “Global Season” and there would be no arguments and no need for debate. It is their ongoing failure to do what they are elected to do, that sees National Coaches and Club Owners squabbling!

    Trust, this position is unlikely to change any time soon. It quite simply doesn’t impact the European Old Boys club much, if at all. New Zealand and Australia have an exclusion policy, so really it become primarily an SA issue. We will thus be left to look for a compromise, which credit Erasmus has managed rather well!

    • Albert

      And let’s not forget the quality of coaching the players are getting abroad. Can Fleck, Matfield, Du Preez, Davids, et al really compare with the quality of coach in teams abroad? Of course not. It is no secret or mystery that players such as Willie, Faf, Kolbe, Carr, CJ Stander, etc have become legends in the North where they receive world class coaching to become some of the worlds best players.

      Watching the Barbarians match, the English commentators were in absolute awe of Pollard, De Allende and Kriel. They even went as far as saying these guys are going to have a massive year next year. Lood player of the match, PSDT was being touted as the worlds best blind side flank. Yet in SA we say these guys shouldn’t be there. I would leave in those circumstances as well.

      Let’s get real for a minute, our local players are being coached by hacks, they go abroad and get world class coaching. Herman below suddenly talks about the quality of SA based players when just last week he was bemoaning any non-Lions player in the Boks. How can someone forget what they said so quickly?

      • Herman Schroder?

        Albert you must have watched a different BB”s game to me. DDA has been piss poor most of the season and again showed a total lack of match awareness in that game. Pollard was exposed for being totally one dimensional and even the dom krag part of his game was poor. Kriel had his usual one minute of flash and twenty minutes when he does his usual disappearing trick. These guys had no clue as how to play effective attacking rugby.

        Even PSdT. Work rate wonderful, tackling top class. Yet he has poor handling skills and does not win any turnover ball at the rucks. So he is workmanlike with a good dose of gees that’s all. The problem in this country is when a player does his job effectively he is given super star status. A true Bok must be a cut or two above that and we do not have too many of those in the current setup.

        The same applies to the coach regrettably. Exposed on too many front’s this season to be considered anything but average. Oh how we praise mediocrity in this confused land of ours. Must be because of the wasted nine dom krag years. Cheers.

      • nezo

        Mr Albert. who is coaching the Overseas teams. is it Northern Hemisphere coaches or Southern Hermisphere ones. they are coached by our coaches. that is why they have improved. but only to our level.

        they talk great of our player. that is exactly true. they are great. this is what we have been saying. but we are also saying they are playing with only 40% of their potential. we are crying for a structure that will release that dormant potential.

        • SweetAz

          Yet when Rassie tries to institute those structures you and Herman fall all over yourself running around in circles with your hands over your ears screaming domkrag???? Un-friggin-believable.

          • nezo

            my friend my brother. we on the same side here. the NH see our players as out of this world. it is because they havent seen anything better. we on the other hand we have seen glimpses of the greatness of these players. we know they have the potential to do more. and the only problem we find is that the coaching is limiting them. that is the only problem. there is nothing spectacular that the NH countries are doing that we havent done already. they have just copied us as they are coached by our coaches.

            we are just asking the coaches to move on from the traditional way and explore new teritories interms of a playing style. with any playing style South African can always win because we are just that good in rugby. that is even why Rassie looks so good to you. he can even win the World cup. but New Zealand showed us that 80% win rate is possible. and unfortunately our playing style these past 18 years has never gotten us even close to that. with our potential we should be clocking that almost every year. that is all we saying

      • Liebs

        Rassie coached the Babaas. So I don’t see your point in relation to SA coaches being lesser in ability. And what is your suggestion to fix the coaching problem??? Building the future with younger coaches should be the plan in any case even if it means the teams struggle for a season or two. It eventually evens out going forward. Just my five sents

        • Albert

          Rassie is a good coach and I am a big fan. My Point is that our franchises have poor coaches. We have read it over and over and over again about succession planning. This is not something new, and had the South African franchises and SARU been proactive instead of reactive we would have had coaches being groomed and actually retained them.

          Where are our most experienced coaches? Either abroad or not coaching. Yet we have these inexperienced guys as the head coaches and they have mostly been found wanting.

          Even old Herman has once or twice mentioned that the national coach spends far too little time with the players to give them proper coaching. The basis of their coaching is from the franchise coach, and as mentioned in SA they just don’t cut it at the moment. They may develop into fantastic coaches, but they should not be learning on the job. It is far too unprofessional. I am not a Lions fan, but take their coaching structure as an example. They have had proper succession planning with coaches learning as assistant coaches and the partial success continues.

          My suggestion to fix all this starts with getting experienced head coaches into each franchise to ensure there is a system to develop talented coaches. And at the Boks we need to get a proven international coach to come in, help sort the structures and then develop a succession plan. I already mentioned in another post that I would want Gatland. He has done miracles with the Welsh, imagine what he could do with the plethora of talent in the SA game.

        • nezo

          Well said Mr Liebs. i love your first two lines

    • Herman Schroder?

      I agree on the global season being implemented without delay. Knowing World Rugby ‘without delay’ probably means by 2024, lol.

      On matters ‘overseas players’ I have made my views clear in previous posts. I don’t believe the situation is sustainable. If we are honest did the players hauled in this season really make a difference ?? Faf and Willie undoubtedly saved Rassie’s bacon in the first two England tests. but after that blew hot and cold. DV provided a bit of grunt but not much else. Flo Louw was mostly missing in action and lauded when he made the odd steal, big deal. Aplon was there to bring up the coaches ‘quota’ balance while Kolbe had his moments but aren’t we brim full of quality wingers in this country ?

      With a 50% win ratio this season one can hardly say that the local guys could have done much worse imo. For me the problem is quite profound. They took up valuable developmental space for the local contenders including denying them test experience and with their ‘available not available’ guest appearances hardly helped with building a team culture and ‘gees’ based on continuity ( SweetAz’s pet subject ).

      The development of a workable game plan is also jeopardized by these players arriving at short notice making it difficult for the team to gel from the get go which has been a problem all season. Also heaven knows what it’s costing SA rugby from a money point of view to bring in these guys. Money that could have been used to keep some of our rising stars I would say.

      No Rassie is still fumbling around big time and I believe the worst is yet to come. Sad really. Cheers.


      • Barry

        Yes Herman, we all know your view on this, because we’ve heard it once or twice!

        The problem is that you preach from a purists script without any genuine recognition of the many difficult circumstances that are unique to rugby in South Africa. You really need to temper this with a touch of realism!

        • SweetAz

          Thank you, but I think “once or twice” is a bit of an understatement,—lol. Perspective and context are sorely missing from all Hermans commentary. On the one hand, he cries about Rassie NOT achieving the 50% transformation policy but then he cries about, Papier, De Allende, Kolbe, Aplon etc etc knowing full well that 90% of their selection criteria is based upon that very same transformation criteria. His problem is typical of the Gauteng mob, they not only want to have their cake and eat it, but they also want to eat everybody else’s cake as well.

          Yes, I do recognize sarcasm.

    • Albert

      Agree, it is a huge issue in SA for so many social and economical reasons. And now with the new rules in place with regards to land expropriation I can see many many more South African talent leaving the shores to make a much better life abroad.

      The options available are to suck it up, live the high risk life to try to make the 50% (15 players in a squad) when there are potentially players there you are better than. Or you can pack it in, go abroad, live a safe and secure life without nearly as much prejudice, and have just as much chance of making that 50% in the squad to represent your country of birth.

      It really is a no brainer. Why would anybody choose the former? Why would anybody want to remain when the opportunities are so much greater abroad? Therefore, one can see that Rassie (or whomever becomes the Bok coach after 2019) has a very fine balancing act. Thankfully though, they don’t read these columns and never have the misfortune of being berated by certain individuals on this here site.

      • nezo

        someone once asked his grand ma. “granny how come you and Grand pa have stayed together these 60 years and not divorced like many people do nowadays?”

        granny’s answer
        i come from an era where when things are broken, we fix it. not like your generation were when a thing is broken you throw it away.

        i have a problem with people moving abroad to have better lives and international careers. if there is a problem in your country you yourself must stand up and sort it. not run away. not go to Australia or where else. if you have to die to fight for injustices in your country. so be it. you are not doing it for yourself only. you are doing it for the next generation. and the people that love you. [us}

        going away is just so SELFISH. you blame the Government for everything. if the powers that be are doing wrong them stand up and fight them. but then again that is just my opinion. even during Apartheid both black and white fought against the injustices and some died. some chose to go away [i cannot stand those people].

        • Albert

          What is selfish is not thinking about your kids. Why would I bring my kids up in an environment where they are persecuted for the colour of their skin? And where at any minute someone could break into my house and rape and murder my family? If I am lucky enough to have the ability to leave and ensure they safety and well being of my family, is it not in THEIR best interest to do so? And while I am abroad, I can advertise and fight with the international community to sit up and take notice of the atrocities that occur daily in the land of my birth?

          Your comment is provocative and thoughtless. You need to consider someones personal circumstances. You have zero idea of who these people are and what they achieve daily. I bet you some achieve far more while living in another country than you do living there.

          • nezo

            i was expecting that Mr Albert. all am saying is that this is your country. if someone is treating you bad in it. stand up and fight. you will be suprised how many people will join you. many are with you than against you. am not saying you. just anybody thinking of living.

            let me take from Mandela’s words. “i have fought against black domination and i have fought against white domination”.

            i myself my brother i fight any injustice in my country. because its not about me and my family only. its about our rainbow blood. the difference between you and me now. is that your vision is only for you and your family. my vision is for my family which is the entire country. so i cannot live. i cannot run away and live my brothers and sisters fighting alone.

            i love you Albert my man. i ddnt mean to cause any harm. it is my burning desire for any South African to come together one day so that we can build our empire and make our place great. a place we can call home. our Rainbow nation

        • SweetAz

          LOL, —Those that went away are now running the country, those that died are just that, -DEAD.

      • Barry

        Yes agreed, the exodus goes well and beyond just Rugby. A good current example are the three Du Preez brothers all on short term contract in Europe and Curwin Bosch in Japan. (I am sure there are many other examples.) All excluded from the year end tour, so next available option is earning pounds in the holidays. The problem is that it opens the doors and should these guys continue to be overlooked, they will simply make the move permanent!

        • SweetAz

          That is why they will be chosen next year, -even if playing abroad, and paid match fees without necessarily having a Bok contract. They get tied to Bok rugby, unlike the ones who are now permanently excluded because the option for overseas players was not available to previous coaches.
          Perspective and context,—so important and so rare in these columns.

  • Slider

    Just a thought – the England test players are not used by the clubs when matches are outside the “window”, or even on weekends when the 6 Nations takes a break. Not because the RFU force them (they can’t) but because the RFU have a formal arrangement with the PRL (the clubs’s organisational body), ie. all they want is cash to compensate them. SARU are perfectly within their rights to negotiate the same kind of deal with the PRL (likewise the LNR in France). Scotland, Ireland and Wales are different, the clubs being wholly or partly owned by the union, just like South Africa. I’m amazed that I have never heard of SARU being in contact with the PRL, it’s always with the RFU or directly with the clubs themselves. That won’t change matters. It’s almost as if they don’t understand that the clubs have a collective voice, for collective bargaining, for collective benefit.

    • Barry

      It’s a good point though our negotiating powers are seriously hampered by the value of the Rand. We would only be covering two or three players, rather than a full squad, so again it would limit negotiations a fair bit!

      • nezo

        i agree Mr Barry. i just wish we South African can be solution driven not opinion driven. there are many great brains in this platform. how about we all come with a plan for our beloved South African rugby. who knows, with something that makes sense. it may lend up in the right hands.

        for any problem there is a solution.

        • nezo

          a financial plan. how to bring back the supporters. how to keep our players. how to keep SA rugby profitable etc

          • nezo

            who should fix it. if everyone is running away. its individuals who fix a country. not complainers. running like a chicken. even women hate men who runaway when the going gets tough.

          • SweetAz

            Fix the country and all those problems will take care of themselves,— it’s unrealistic to expect ANY of those issues to be resolved in the context of a broken country.

  • Jacques Nortier

    Players can not have it both ways….

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