SARU’s mission impossible
It is nigh impossible for the South African Rugby Union to keep their leading players in South Africa.
It is nigh impossible for the South African Rugby Union (SARU) to keep their leading players in South Africa.
This is the view of South African Rugby Players Association Chief Executive Officer Piet Heymans, who feels the exodus of top Springboks and promising provincial players to Europe is a fight SARU cannot win due to the lure of larger paycheques and a less strenuous playing schedule.
Bryan Habana (Toulon) and Juandre Kruger (Racing Metro) are the latest Springboks to confirm their impending departures to France, with Morné Steyn (Stade Francais) expected to follow suit when his contract with the Bulls expires at the end of the year.
Heymans believes the pros of a move abroad far outweigh the cons and a player’s desire to represent South Africa.
“What we are currently seeing is that amounts offered to players have been substantially increased over the past few years and it is almost impossible for SARU and a province to even match this,” Heymans told supersport.com.
“Add to this the fact that travelling in Europe is minimal and even if players have an away game, they mostly sleep at home that night. It makes a difference for a player wanting to prolong his career.
“I don’t think it is a situation we will be able to stop in the future.”
Heymans added that the Springbok selection policy remains unchanged; thus coach Heyneke Meyer will first look at local talent before he casts his eye on overseas-based players.
“We had some serious discussions back in 2007 primarily to ensure that overseas players are still available for the Boks if needed. The scenario is the same as it was then, that the Bok coach would first look locally before looking abroad,” Heymans said.
SARU Chief Executive Officer Jurie Roux rubberstamped Heymans’ comment.
“Heyneke has frequently said that that is his preferred approach, but it is at his discretion,” Roux said.
“Our policy remains unchanged and the national coach has a dispensation to select overseas-based South African players that can help the Springboks win Test matches.
“The policy has been in place for a number of years now and we’re sure that it has not significantly affected the decision-making process for players and has certainly not led to any exodus.
"We were talking about the ‘player drain’ long before the policy came into place and the key drivers then remain the key drivers now – it’s about earning potential and lifestyle as well as career opportunities for a few players who believe they may be able to play international rugby for another country.
“The question has been asked since Francois Pienaar and Joel Stransky departed in 1996/7 and the answer remains the same - every time one player leaves it creates an opportunity for an up-and-coming youngster.
"Would Eben Etzebeth and Siya Kolisi, for instance, have got their chances so early at the Stormers if players such as Anton van Zyl, Adriaan Fondse and Francois and Pieter Louw had not gone overseas before the start of last season?
“Rugby teams are in a constant state of re-generation and this is just one of the factors involved in the process,” added Roux.
South African players plying their trade overseas include Jaque Fourie, Fourie du Preez, Francois Louw, Ruan Pienaar, Schalk Brits, Johann Muller, Bakkies Botha, John Smit, Gurthro Steenkamp, Joe van Niekerk, Brian Mujati, Richardt Strauss, Brad Barritt, Andries Pretorius and Rory Kockott.