Eben Etzebeth is set to become the highest-paid South African rugby player in Springbok history.
On Thursday, Toulon announced that Etzebeth would join the Top 14 giants after the 2019 Rugby World Cup, having agreed a two-year deal that is expected to be worth upwards of €1m (R16m) per season.
That would rank the 75-Test Bok lock among the five highest-paid players in the world, including Israel Folau (estimated €1.4m), Dan Carter and Matt Giteau (both €1.1m), and Charles Piutau (€1m).
The gap between Etzebeth and his countrymen would be significant as there is a cluster of European-based South Africans estimated to be earning upwards of €600k, the mark set by Bryan Habana at Toulon.
In 2017, the average South African Super Rugby player earned R1m, with Beast Mtawarira at the top of the pile on R3.8m.
Etzebeth’s contract would also shatter the two-year, R22m deal that reportedly convinced Jaque Fourie to pull out of the 2011 Rugby World Cup and return to Japan.
Losing a player of Etzebeth’s quality in his prime is a blow to the domestic and regional competitions that he might otherwise have participated in. It remains to be seen whether, written in invisible ink on the Toulon offer, Etzebeth will be required to retire from international rugby.
Fortunately, South Africa has a stockpile of locks to rival a Rest of the World XV and the silver lining to Etzebeth’s mega-deal is that Toulon’s warchest for other South African talent will be R17m lighter in 2020 and 2021.
— Staff Writer