Cape Town - Veteran Springbok flank Schalk Burger has called on SA Rugby’s top brass be more proactive to stop young players from leaving the country.
Springbok rugby reached a crisis point earlier this month following the Springboks’ 57-15 annihilation at the hands of the All Blacks in Durban.
In an attempt to find solutions, SA Rugby has called for a coaching indaba in Cape Town this week where several experts will share their opinions on the way forward for the national team.
The 86-Test capped Burger, who recently left Western Province to join English club Saracens, told The Guardian that the cracks have been starting show for some time in South African rugby.
“It hurts all of us who have played there for a long time. I’m not too sure what the future is going to hold. At this moment it looks quite bleak out there,” said Burger.
“The warning signs were there last year and maybe the year before. We probably lost a few games we wouldn’t have lost in the past. We went through a phase when massive alarm bells were ringing but we probably had a good enough international side at the time to mask it.”
A big problem is players are starting to leave South Africa at a younger age, the 33-year-old Burger stressed.
“There’s no qualms about someone like myself, Duane (Vermeulen) or Francois Louw plying our trade overseas because we’ve done our bit for the Springboks over numerous years. The big issue is losing the pros in the middle. The bloke who plays 200 games for his team, drives the everyday values, pitches up without complaining and plays 80 minutes every week... we’ve lost them in South Africa. Our pros are sitting in France or Japan or here. We’ve got top players and promising young players but nothing in the middle.”
But Burger’s message to SA Rugby’s top brass is clear: act now or face more embarrassment at the next Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019.
“SA Rugby has to become more proactive. We’ve been a good rugby nation for so long and this is the first time we’re really in big crisis. We could have been more proactive in the past but now the issue is real. Everyone is looking ahead to 2019 but there’ll be no 2019 World Cup for the current crop of players if it goes on like this.”
Burger's comments come after Vermeulen also expressed his concern at the state of the South African game.
Vermeulen, who plies his trade at Toulon in the French Top 14, revealed that it's difficult to return to South Africa because of the way rugby is being administered in the country.
"I want to be part of the Boks but the way things are going now I can't see a positive outcome," Vermeulen told TimesLIVE earlier this month.
"We need an intervention and I can't sit silently on the side and say nothing anymore. I feel it's always the coaches that have their say in a team environment and as a player there is no time to focus and to talk about issues in SA rugby. We only focus on the game itself. I feel the need to speak up, for the players."