Gary Boshoff

Rugby exodus not all bad

2015-03-11 13:30
Sport24 columnist Gary Boshoff (File)

While the exodus of top South African rugby players for the very lucrative overseas market has generally been portrayed as a negative trend for South African rugby, I have always held the view that when opportunity beckons it should be grabbed with both hands. So how, you may ask, is it to the advantage of South African rugby when its prized players (both the up-and-coming and the established ones) opt for foreign shores?

Some years back, when I was still involved in rugby administration, I was a strong supporter of SARU’s Elite Squad System and advocated the identification of young talented players (of all colours, but mostly talented black players) in smaller unions (which did not have the resources to support the development of these players) and placing them in the highly resourced environment of the affluent bigger unions. 

In fact, I actively encouraged young talented black players to grab opportunities offered to them up north (also at the Sharks) to chase their dreams.  This made me very unpopular with some parents and administrators from the smaller unions who accused me of “stealing” their players so that they can become “quotas” for the Blue Bulls, Lions, Cheetahs and Sharks.  They further argued that these unions (franchises) should invest in “black rugby”, develop their own black talent and not import them from the Western, Southern and Eastern Cape.  Hidden in this convenient argument (which denied many a youngster an opportunity to excel) was old rugby politics (North vs South) and a lack of insight as to how the rugby system has evolved since the days when amateurism and territorial loyalty held sway.

I am of the opinion that this short-sightedness has indeed denied many young black players the opportunity to break out of the limitations of their local environment.

Further to this, I also believed (and still do today) that releasing these players to seek greener pastures in other more lucrative and resourced environments has more positive than negative consequences for the smaller unions.  The thing is; when many of these youngsters don’t make it into the representative sides of their adopted unions they tend to return to their home union, better, bigger and wiser, and yes, they return as a professional rugby player.  Even the ones that make it, don’t stay there forever and eventually tends to return to their home unions adding massive value in the process. There are many examples of this today.

Similarly, I contend that this so-called exodus of our best players (which in fact is a gross exaggeration because it implies a mass departure) is nothing but a damp squib, a storm in a teacup. On the contrary, I believe the “perceived exodus” has re-booted the South African rugby system, particularly at the Currie Cup level. The last few years we have seen so many youngsters leap onto the national scene simply because there are now more opportunities because of the new-found mobility of players across rugby-markets globally. The quality of our young players, at school, tertiary and provincial levels are world class and continues to excel due to the embedded rugby culture and the established administrative and coaching infrastructure we have in South Africa. That is why we are the envy of our counterparts in Australasia and Europe.

We need to adjust our vision and dare to look past the few Springboks that makes the next step up into international professional rugby butrather covet the daring, young, talented future Springboks that remains behind and who aspires for much bigger things that their predecessors ever did. This is also true for the young Currie Cup and Super Rugby stars who have now become sought after commodities for the lucrative English and French top leagues.  When these young players return, they will be better, stronger and wiser then now and will add to the depth that would have emerged through the ranks since their departure.

We have to let go and yes, move past this fear of “losing our Springboks” to the French and English billionaire club owners, after all, “Springbok” and “Best” is only labels that each player has to proof every single time he takes to the field, without exception. In South Africa we have many players that are worthy of the Springbok label, but who is yet to be bestowed with it.  It is just a matter of the right opportunity at the right time.

Over the weekend 12 Springboks (Bulls) played 3 Springboks (Stormers). The Bulls had the Springboks, but the Stormers had the “Best”, and it showed in the results. I rest my case.

Gary Boshoff is a former SARU player (1984-1986)

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

Read more on:    springboks  |  super 15  |  gary boshoff  |  rugby

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