Why Boks are heading abroad
Thu, 25 Apr 2013 18:58
Competing with cash flush clubs in Europe and Japan is impossible. This is the simple reality facing South African officials.
Jurie Roux, CEO of the South African Rugby Union, said "market forces" were an irresistible factor in determining players' career decisions.
This follows the revelations this week that several players who represented the Springboks last year - but will be leaving South Africa to play abroad in the next couple of months - were not awarded contracts.
These include Andries Bekker (heading to Japan), Juandré Kruger (France), Morné Steyn (France), Bryan Habana (France), JP Pietersen (Japan) and Zane Kirchner (Ireland).
Add to that rumours that Wynand Olivier (Japan) and Jacques Potgieter (Japan) are also being head hunted abroad, it is not difficult to see why panic-stricken officials, fans and even some media outfits have been speaking of a looming mass exodus.
The SARU boss, Roux, said they worked hard with the South African Rugby Players' Association (SARPA), and the provincial unions, who hold the players' primary contracts, to secure as many leading Springboks and up-and-coming young players as was possible.
However, powerful Northern Hemisphere economies and the necessity for players of maximising their earnings in an unpredictable career span were powerful influences.
"Countries in the Southern Hemisphere have faced this challenge since the game went professional in 1996," said Roux.
"We have large numbers of high quality players for which there is a significant demand in major world economies.
"Springbok players are well paid but those salaries can be more than matched in the Northern Hemisphere where tax breaks and other incentives can also be thrown in. Our players want to play for the Springboks but the financial case for a move can be irresistible."
Roux said that SARU's preference was for players to remain at home but he respected the players' interest in moving overseas.
"The Springbok coach has frequently reiterated our case that we prefer to pick home-based players first," said Roux.
"But the Springboks are our priority and if there are better available options based overseas we will select them.
"However, at some stage we have to look after the players that stay in South Africa.
"Players such as Bryan Habana and others have given fantastic service to South African rugby and there will come in a player's life where he wants to experience something different and look to his future as well.
"We understand and respect that motivation and as much as we'd love to retain all our players, the rugby economy in this country simply isn't big enough to do that.
"What we have to be thankful for is that the openings create growing room for succeeding generations of players such as the Eben Etzebeths, Pat Lambies and Marcell Coetzees, whom we have just contracted but whom might not have got a chance as early as they did but for the departure overseas of more senior players."
SARU announced a group of 15 contracted Springboks for the 2013 season with a further five positions to be filled.
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