Wallabies targeted for T20
Sydney - Wallabies players would have to defy the Australian Rugby Union and become ''rebels'' if they wanted to be part of a proposed Twenty20-style rugby tournament planned for South Africa in 2012.
South African officials, including Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus, are organising an international competition in which eight teams will play 40-minute matches using new laws aimed at hastening the game.
Sources on Wednesday said numerous South African players had signed up with International Super Rugby about three months ago, and New Zealand and Australian players - including Phil Waugh, James O'Connor, Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell - are being targeted. Springboks who have been linked to the tournament include Victor Matfield, John Smit, Bryan Habana, Schalk Burger, Juan Smith and Bismarck du Plessis.
The players targeted are essentially those coming off contract with the South African, New Zealand and Australian rugby unions after the 2011 World Cup. And Australian and New Zealand officials are well aware that some of their players were approached by ISR organisers recently.
A well-known Australian rugby identity has also been in contact with the organisers, who include Cape Town lawyer and businessman Frikkie Erasmus, in a bid to become the coach of one of the teams.
The new tournament, which is planned to start in January 2012 and run over three or four weeks, is based on cricket's Indian Premier League, with plans to play matches at the new World Cup football stadiums in Cape Town and Durban.
The concept is understood to be based around auctioning team licences and major players.
However, some enormous hurdles would have to be overcome before the tournament could go ahead. If a player is contracted to the ARU, he would not be allowed to play, because the tournament coincides with the players' compulsory six-week rest period. With the Australian season being extended from February to late November next year, the only rest period will be over summer, in particular January.
If the player is no longer contracted by the ARU, he would have to hope for a quick financial windfall, because he would not have the outlet of then going to a northern hemisphere club. Northern hemisphere clubs are heavily involved in their own competitions in January and are highly unlikely to release players.
Despite suggestions the players involved in the Twenty20 would sign new contracts with their countries and provincial unions only if they were allowed to take part annually in the ISR competition, it is difficult to see that occurring while the countries and provinces hold the upper hand at contract negotiation time.
ARU chief executive John O'Neill on Wednesday said he was aware of the Twenty20 proposal. ''We've had no formal proposal from them, and they don't have any backing that we can identify,'' he said.