Cape Town - Former captain Jean de Villiers says the Springbok jersey has lost some of its meaning after a disastrous year for the team in 2016.
The Springboks, under the guidance of head coach Allister Coetzee, lost a "record" eight out of 12 Tests last year.
It included a first ever loss to Ireland on home soil, losing away to Argentina for the first time, a record 57-15 pummelling at home against the All Blacks, as well as going down to lowly Italy - also for the first time ever.
De Villiers, who played 109 Tests for the Springboks between 2002 and 2015, was a guest speaker at the launch of a schools rugby event in Pretoria on Wednesday where he shared his thoughts on the current state of Springbok rugby.
In-fighting at boardroom level has had a negative impact on the South African game, De Villiers feels.
“The structures from schools level to the Boks are not structures geared for long-term success. There’s constant fighting going on, from top level to the bottom and vice-versa. Then you’ve also got a CEO who often appears in court,” De Villiers was quoted as saying by Netwerk24.
De Villiers was referring to SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux, who is embroiled in a legal battle after being sued for alleged financial mismanagement during his time as chairperson of the Stellenbosch Rugby Club.
The above-mentioned scenarios lead to unhappiness among players, De Villiers stressed.
“What then happens is that corporate South Africa loses interest to get involved. Your brand gets watered down. Something that was as strong as the Bok jersey, does not really have much meaning to us anymore.”
South Africa’s declining Rand has also set new challenges to rugby in the country, as more players chase the lure of the stronger currencies abroad, De Villiers added.
Since retiring from professional rugby last year, De Villiers, 36, has joined pay-channel SuperSport as a rugby analyst.
Meanwhile, from a corporate perspective, there was some reprieve for SA Rugby on Wednesday when it was announced that FlySafair had been appointed as the official domestic carrier for the Springboks and SA Rugby.
The airline succeeds SAA, whose sponsorship came to an end in December, and will see the award-winning newcomer cater for SA Rugby’s domestic needs for the next three years.