Are SARU perhaps paying price of pandering to some players wants (rather than needs)?
These weird contracts that see players able to play in Japan or Europe, yet be available for certain Bok games are masqueraded as "win-win" solutions. Win for the player, win for the agent yes, but I am not so sure about the win for South African rugby.
The simple truth of the matter is that we cannot compete with foreign currency salaries, so instead of asking players to try and work out hybrid contracts overseas, South Africa needs to offer them something that money can't buy.
I do not for a single second begrudge players making as much money as they possibly can from an already short career that can be cut even shorter at any given second by injury. But rugby, in its current guise, offers players more than just money.
An enviable lifestyle, playing the national sport in front of millions of adoring fans, celebrity status, the ability to be a role model, playing in the Currie Cup and Super Rugby tournaments … And playing against the All Blacks while wearing the Springbok jersey!
Call Frans Steyn what you like, but how grumpy would you be if you had given up a giant French salary to come home, only to find Bok coach Heyneke Meyer selecting all the overseas-based players in any case?
And if promised certain terms upon returning to SA, which he was, then SARU must honour those terms.
To turn one’s back on the Boks is massive, especially mid-season, and he would have known that he would look like a spoilt brat by doing so. But time on the field is his primary bargaining tool.
How tragic that Springbok rugby has come to this!
And it is through pandering to big name player wants, rather than just trusting the next player in line, that we have arrived at this rather embarrassing impasse.
Go overseas by all means, make as much money as you want to, but give up all the good that comes with playing rugby in South Africa, including the Bok jersey, while doing so.
There is also no need to pour scorn on players choosing that overseas option. Percy Montgomery and Jean de Villiers had stints overseas, and came back as better players. It broadens horizons and adds a layer of maturity. But if players choose to stay there, rather than come back, then so be it.
Not only will it make life simpler for the Bok coach and selectors, but I have a feeling it will add to the pride in the jersey, and “Gees” in the squad. No longer will that jersey be available to all, but only to those who have chosen a path that allows them to earn it.
Meyer says he does not want to cheapen the jersey by offering out Test caps too freely. Well, I would rather have 15 debutants earning the right to that jersey than a prima donna turning it down because it does not come with enough money!
Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt
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