Luke: Don't go overseas
Luke Watson (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Former Springbok and Stormers flanker Luke Watson feels South African players who want to play abroad should rather remain on home soil.
After two seasons in the English Premier League, Watson formally announced his return to South African rugby on Tuesday at a media conference.
The former Sharks and Stormers and Bath captain will be playing for the Southern Kings after he decided against extending his contract with the English club.
Watson said that an overseas stint helped players to develop their game but he felt they went abroad essentially for financial reasons and would serve South African rugby better if they played locally instead.
"There is no doubt that players go abroad because of better salaries but the game locally is poorer off without them," said Watson.
"It must, therefore, be a challenge for South African unions to offer more competitive salaries and that will make the game so much more competitive.
"Besides, the game will grow when better players remain in the SA game."
Watson left South Africa a controversial figure after he allegedly said he had to "stop himself from vomiting on the Springbok jersey" in 2008.
He had since apologised for his mistakes in a media interview last year.
Watson on Tuesday said he had not thought of playing for the Springboks again but he would not turn down the opportunity if it came his way.
"I would do so very proudly if I can play for the Springboks again but it's not something that's been in the back of my mind," said Watson.
"My goal is to help the Kings achieve Super Rugby status and then attract good players."
Watson said he had been following the new Super Rugby season and he felt that "too much rugby" was being played.
"The matter of too much rugby being played needs to be addressed and the format is such that some teams don't play each other, which means that the prestige of certain clubs facing each other in a match has been lost."
In the past season, South African players such as Brian Mujati, Schalk Brits and Joe van Niekerk all performed well in Europe and Watson felt they should have strong claims for inclusion in the Springbok team later this year.
He said it had not an easy decision to leave Bath but he wanted to be part of rugby's growth process in the Eastern Cape which, in the near future, will attain Super Rugby status.
An initiative by SA Rugby to help grow the game in the Eastern Province will see the Kings play in next month's IRB-sanctioned Emerging Nations tournament to be hosted by Romania where Watson will make his debut.
The Kings replaced the Emerging Springboks as South Africa's tournament representative.
"There have been many people (back in England) who questioned my sanity for giving up what I had at Bath to return to Port Elizabeth but those close to me know what the region means to me," said Watson.
"Playing for the Kings is a wonderful opportunity for me as a player and as a person.
"I played for Eastern Province as an 18 year-old and was schooled at Grey in PE."
Watson believed the region had a lot of potential and untapped value to contribute towards South African rugby.
"The Eastern Cape region has good (rugby) schools and universities and we must ensure that they (the players) stay at home (in the province)."