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.