Sell up, move Boks to Dubai – Jake

Jake White

We mustn’t hoodwink rugby supporters that there’s a plan in place to save South African rugby – the reality is that the essence of what we were about is gone. Under the new contracting model, SA Rugby is actively telling players to go overseas with no fear that it will affect their chances of playing for the Springboks.

We’re going to call Regulation 9 whenever the Test window opens while we’re blooding juniors in South Africa on longer term contracts. It’s contradictory because all of the values we’re going to be trying to instil in those youngsters don’t apply to the more senior players we’ve told to chase big contracts overseas.

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the model, it confirms that the horse has bolted.

The horse is still in the New Zealand stable. The All Blacks have refused to negotiate on the system that keeps their best players in the country and that culture is their cutting edge when it counts. You can’t put a price on that.

England, Ireland and New Zealand have got central contracting and it’s not a coincidence that New Zealand and Ireland, who have fewer players than any other contender, are ranked the top two teams in the world.

But people have said we mustn’t try to copy other countries. Maybe they’re right and it’s time to be bold and pioneer a new path to glory for the Springboks. Why not be leaders in this new age of selling rugby assets and package everything for sale, lock, stock and barrel, to someone like a multi-billionaire Qatari business magnate?

If you were listing rugby on the stock exchange, SA Rugby would be a blue-chip stock – we’ve got stadiums, hosted world cups, won two Rugby World Cups and have the world’s best rugby schools producing elite players.

Would it cost more to buy South African rugby than Manchester United? I very much doubt it, and an American owns that English Premier League side.

So why are we trying to sell off little pieces of the game, like the Southern Kings, when we could package the whole lot and potentially solve all the financial issues?

There are plenty of wealthy businessmen interested in owning a professional sports club. They don’t buy these clubs because they necessarily love the sport but because it’s a luxury item that not everyone can afford, like a very old bottle of wine.

A billionaire Qatari may recognise this as the chance of a lifetime to become the first person to own South African rugby, and maybe that would be a solution that eliminates all the interfering and corruption in our game.

Moving SA Rugby to a tax haven like Dubai would save even more money and put the headquarters in a centralised location, perfect for assembling all our foreign-based players and roughly halfway between Tests in Cape Town and Sydney, or Johannesburg and London.

It sounds crazy and die-hards will say that it will never happen. But it is happening.

The Kings have been bought by a Japanese consortium and it’s likely that they will go out and headhunt a top, foreign coach.

There’s nothing left of South African rugby to save, so why be finicky about what we sell? When you put your house on the market, you can’t put an asterisk in the advert with “second bedroom not for sale”. If you’re in, you’re in.

Package the whole thing while it’s still valuable and sell it to someone who will run it like a business.

People will complain that the team is based overseas, but it’s too late now because back when we had our cake we didn’t want to eat it. We’ve either got to go back to saying players can’t play for South Africa if they’re based abroad, or admit that we’ve lost that fight, sell everything to the highest bidder and take the whole team overseas.

- Jake White

Let's chat

  • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

    One wonders how transformation would fit into this model? Or if the govt would be happy to give up the tax they earn from rugby?

    • Wes

      Natural transformation is the best way forward. Forced transformation will never work.

      • Zu kunene

        It did work in Apartheid did it not? The law was..no players of colour. Only white, that law worked, why can’t it work now.

        • Frankie Knuckles

          Because those teams were consistently the best in the world. Now participation is more important than success. A symptom of EVERY facet of life in SA, unfortunately.

  • Nick

    Jake, Murdoch already owns South African Rugby. That goes for Aussie and Kiwi rugby too.
    You’re a funny guy!

  • Herman

    In my opinion you go overseas then it’s Cheers been nice knowing you. Build from within and build a team culture with continuity and a modern game plan obviously with world class coaches in the driving seat. As Jake pointed out NZ and Ireland and Wales for that matter do it with great success. Our mercenary driven old boys club ain’t going to work. We tried it last year and failed miserably.

    As for Dubai. Well the Natal / Sharks have been playing in Durb’s for a hundred and thirty years and their players still can’t catch a slippery ball to this very day. Fancy that being our headquarters. lol. Cheers.

  • Barry

    Corruption in our game? Are you talking about the match fixing that going on? Referees are slowly being catch out with their bad call the make. With the derbies, we see its one for you and one for me. Don’t make sense. Even the sport writers tells you what’s going to happen in game before it happen as if they have inside information.

  • Kurt Norman

    Is this truly what it has come to? Such a great legacy come to naught. I understand the importance of money but not once was the love of the game and team spirit mentioned in that article. I can now understand why the Springboks are as they are when all the leadership considers them purely as a money cow. Money has been the demise of our once proud Springbok outfit.

  • Henry de Wet

    The big difference between South Africa and NZ, Wales, Ireland etc, is that they don’t have a weak currency, so it’s not comparing apples with apples. SA Rugby tried to keep players here with big contracts and the 30 cap rule, but it didn’t work. Players will leave to maximise on earnings, it’s something that happens in all industries / jobs. Let’s see where this new plan takes us.

    • Chris

      Weak currency plays in our favor if we start putting teams in European competitions. All the gate fees, advertising and TV rights are in Euros while most of the team cost are “stateside” in Rands.
      Players could be making a large pert of their salaries in Euro and spend in Rands. (their houses, cars etc. are in the RSA)
      How many euros in match fees would you need to make your house payment in the Republic ?

  • John Comyn

    It makes sense to sell the brand for financial reasons but I don’t think it’s feasible to have your national side based elsewhere. What country does that? Maybe Pakistan cricket but even then I think the HQ is in Pakistan. If a private entity owns a side I can’t see how that side side can be called the national side.

  • Nick

    If this article is meant to put to bed the notion that Mr White AKA ‘Jake the snake’ has no loyalty and only bends over for the highest buck, it certainly tells us the opposite. Statements like:
    ‘There’s nothing left of South African rugby to save, so why be finicky about what we sell?
    or
    ‘A billionaire Qatari may recognise this as the chance of a lifetime to become the first person to own South African rugby,’
    Somebody in SA rugby must have hurt Jake bad. I think he needs a really big hug.
    Astonishing really, coming from an ex Bok coach.

    • Tobokani

      Well to be fair, I’d also have a chip on my shoulder if i won the world cup and got effectively fired or didn’t have dibs on the job after that ?. I dont know Jake as a person but i think its probably best he left. Anyone that says “the only fetcher i need is one that fetches me beer” when the team has just lost 49-0 and has taken a hammering at the breakdown reflects an ego that really has no olace in a sport that changes every year. Coaches from the Mourinho school of doing things are struggling in this new era of sport where one has to constantly evolve their ideas or risk getting left behind. Thats why i think Rassie is the perfect coach because he seems very proactive and innovative just like Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp and it helps that the players seem to really like them.

  • Duane

    The key is to privatise rugby as a whole. We have enough wealthy businessmen in SA that will gladly buy each union and run it as a proper business. Just imagine Koos Bekker buying SWD, Oppenheimer’s buying Puma’s, or even Ace Magashula buying Griffons. Unlimited budget to contract world class players.

    • Barry

      It’s a pretty high risk business with relatively low returns to risk ratio, so I am not sure there are queues of investors out there.

      I believe there’s a gross disproportion of broadcasting income, split between the Broadcasters and the administrators, and a further gap between the administrators and the franchises – the big money is seriously skimmed before it gets to the guys that have players & stadiums.

      It is relatively low risk for the broadcasters – if the sport or competition loses popularity they move their camera crew to something more popular!

      The point is the guys making the commitment and investment (the franchises) are not in control nor fairly remunerated, but who’s fault is that! How is it for example that a European Pro 14 club can lure prime Super rugby players abroad? Surely a Super Rugby salary should trump a pro14 salary 6 love, but it doesn’t.

      The simple reason for this, – and it sits at the core of our rugby problems – remains with poor administration. We under value our services and have not the ability to negotiate our way out of a paper bag! We negotiate in dollars, so there should be no reason why we can’t afford to keep our players at home, save the skimming and the administrators!!

      So instead of getting testy with our administrators and an outdated semi-professional administration, we rather consider selling our national treasure!!!

  • Chris

    SA Rugby survived the isolation years in the 80’s not being able to play ANY foreign teams, but Jakes only way forward is to sell the Springboks to a Arab Sheik ?
    So many holes in that cheese its hard to figure out where to start !
    Maybe Jake has wet-dreams about brokering the deal and this article is him putting his little worm in the river hoping for a nibble from a trout ?

    Plenty of other alternatives we could explore that doesn’t look like the Premier league. Have a look at how the Green Bay Packers are set up for instance.
    One of the most successful and popular teams in the NFL with a huge fanbase thats run as a non-profit owned by the fans. No pressure to turn a profit for investors every year as the fans (shareholders) will give you more leeway. Highly doubtful that a SA team will ever be run at a profit anyway. Its also very naive to think Billionaires don’t expect to make a profit out of the teams they own.

  • Wes

    Jake likes to think out the box. I respect that. Also if the TV rights are lost there will be no money left. Budget gone!

  • Grant

    “hoodwink rugby supporters that there’s a plan in place to save South African rugby”. This makes it seem like the ones in charge are only doing this as a media stunt, knowing full well that the whole plan in BS. No way.

    I usually like Jake’s articles. Interesting thoughts and ideas. But on this one, I couldn’t disagree more. The idea that we should all just cut our losses, forget our passions and love for the game, and view it strictly as a financial thing, is absurd. The reason the current state of affairs is such a sticky point between so many people is because so many people really care, are really passionate about it all, and don’t just want to throw in the towel, cut our losses and take the money.

    Yes, the Springboks aren’t as good as they once were, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad. Rugby is growing, the competition between Tier 1 nations is becoming much closer and tighter, and there’s major growth in the north. Everyone keeps saying ‘look at how great the central contracting system works in NZ’. While that may be true, eventually the bow will break. They have a more stable platform than we do, but that doesn’t mean it’s indestructible.

    We’re still one of the best rugby-nations in the world. Just not THE best.
    Politics interferes. Yes. Lets do our best to deal with it.
    Our currency is weak. Yes. Lets do our best to deal with it.
    This is South Africa we’re talking about, and there will never, ever, be an easy way out. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles

    The Alistair Coetzee era is over, and we’re still recovering from that. If we had had a good head coach over the last 4 years (Rassie, Ackerman, or perhaps even Jake White himself), then the situation wouldn’t be as dire as it seems now. With a good coach, we can field a competitive team of only locally based players. This team might not win the world cup, but they’d still be up there. Throw in a handful of overseas-based players, and they bring knowledge and experience to the team, which benefits the ones at home.

    I don’t mind losing to top teams, but as long as it’s not a hammering. The last 3 games between SA and NZ, the combined score is SA 90 – 91 NZ. That’s pretty damn good if you ask me. That I can deal with. The 57-0 hammering before that is something I’d rather forget, and is part of what we’re still recovering from.

    So to SARU, Rassie, Jake White, and everyone else, just keep fighting the fight.

    (Quick side note: In my opinion, I think it’s okay to have foreign based players in the team, but when it comes to a choice between 2 players, and one of them is at home, give preference to that player. Then limit the number of overseas players to max 1/4 of the team. You cant deny people the opportunity to earn better money, and expect loyalty. But they must understand that if they do decide to go, they risk not being selected at all.)

    Well, that’s just my opinion anyway..

  • Nick

    Chris, well said.

    All I can say is, keep Jake White as far away from any position of importance in SA rugby as possible. Stay in Japan Jake.
    Lions fans may remember him dismembering the team at Ellis Park a few days before they played the British Lions via his ‘winning ways’ outfit. [remember that one!] Some of you may recall. Disgraceful.
    Jake is only interested in his own advancement. He seems to have no regard or empathy with the concept of loving the Springboks. I do hope Boks and ex Boks read this.

  • Nick

    lol…Chris, it’s also highly naive to think rich billionaires are not corrupt ‘like safu’ either.

  • Barry

    There should surely be a semblance of National pride in our teams – what sort of nation would put a price tag on that?

    The concept may work at franchise level but certainly not our National side!

  • Cobus Brits

    Interesting idea Jake.

    The players will always play anywhere to the highest bidder except when management is top notch like AB’s, Ireland or Wales, so from their perspective it not a problem. Will sweat bullets in Dubai but that can only help with fitness.
    Is our management topnotch? Looking past Rassie its an abyss. And the Rand is tanking…

    Our rugby administrators are pretty amateurish, coaching structures allmost non-existant so they will only want to protect their jobs.

    Biggest problem is the fans. How do they interact with players halfway round the world?

    Good idea but we need to see the Boks completely on the ropes before we will be open to it. By that time SA Rugby can be had really cheap by an Emerati billionaire.

  • Dean Bright

    This idea is madness, sell the soul of South African rugby to someone in Dubai who understands nothing of the traditions and pride of it. We may as well allow the Gupta’s to place their bid too then. Privatize the unions and bring back our best players and coaches. SA rugby was at it’s strongest when our Currie Cup was one of the best in the World. That’s what they need to focus on. Once the Currie Cup is back to full strength, the Super Rugby franchises will be stronger. Springbok rugby will be strong again too.

  • Jakes

    Well, this article lost all credibility when Jake mentioned that the Southern Kings were bought by a Japanese Consortium!

  • Dorrington

    Hi Jake. Firstly very well written article,. Corruption has been in SA rugby and all sport for that matter for many years. One only needs to look back at your own experience with SA Rugby. that was unbelievable.
    As with Rugby Experts such as yourself, who are not afraid to say it as it is, the article is both controversial, however true to the core.
    SA Rugby has been shorting players on contracts for years. This is a well known fact. it’s about time SA Rugby was run as a business and not a “who knows who” or “don’t upset the wrong person” type of operation. Where Coaches and players are celebrated and not sold off because we simply can’t afford to keep them local anymore.

  • Dries

    Poor old Jake rugby is not all about money. The big difference between the Springboks and All Blacks is politics. Get rid of racism aka quota programs and the Boks could be on top in 5 years. Supporters are being discouraged to watch games even at primary school level because of quotas.

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