exodus of top South African rugby players for the very lucrative overseas
market has generally been portrayed as a negative trend for South African
rugby, I have always held the view that when opportunity beckons it should be grabbed
with both hands. So how, you may ask, is
it to the advantage of South African rugby when its prized players (both the
up-and-coming and the established ones) opt for foreign shores?
back, when I was still involved in rugby administration, I was a strong
supporter of SARU’s Elite Squad System and advocated the identification of
young talented players (of all colours, but mostly talented black players) in
smaller unions (which did not have the resources to support the development of
these players) and placing them in the highly resourced environment of the
affluent bigger unions.
In fact, I
actively encouraged young talented black players to grab opportunities offered
to them up north (also at the Sharks) to chase their dreams. This made me very unpopular with some parents
and administrators from the smaller unions who accused me of “stealing” their
players so that they can become “quotas” for the Blue Bulls, Lions, Cheetahs
and Sharks. They further argued that
these unions (franchises) should invest in “black rugby”, develop their own
black talent and not import them from the Western, Southern and Eastern
Cape. Hidden in this convenient argument
(which denied many a youngster an opportunity to excel) was old rugby politics
(North vs South) and a lack of insight as to how the rugby system has evolved
since the days when amateurism and territorial loyalty held sway.
I am of the
opinion that this short-sightedness has indeed denied many young black players
the opportunity to break out of the limitations of their local environment.
this, I also believed (and still do today) that releasing these players to seek
greener pastures in other more lucrative and resourced environments has more
positive than negative consequences for the smaller unions. The thing is; when many of these youngsters
don’t make it into the representative sides of their adopted unions they tend
to return to their home union, better, bigger and wiser, and yes, they return as
a professional rugby player. Even the ones
that make it, don’t stay there forever and eventually tends to return to their
home unions adding massive value in the process. There are many examples of this today.
contend that this so-called exodus of our best players (which in fact is a
gross exaggeration because it implies a mass departure) is nothing but a damp
squib, a storm in a teacup. On the
contrary, I believe the “perceived exodus” has re-booted the South African
rugby system, particularly at the Currie Cup level. The last few years we have seen so many
youngsters leap onto the national scene simply because there are now more
opportunities because of the new-found mobility of players across rugby-markets
globally. The quality of our young
players, at school, tertiary and provincial levels are world class and
continues to excel due to the embedded rugby culture and the established
administrative and coaching infrastructure we have in South Africa. That is why we are the envy of our
counterparts in Australasia and Europe.
We need to
adjust our vision and dare to look past the few Springboks that makes the next
step up into international professional rugby butrather covet
the daring, young, talented future Springboks that remains behind and who
aspires for much bigger things that their predecessors ever did. This is also true for the young Currie Cup
and Super Rugby stars who have now become sought after commodities for the
lucrative English and French top leagues.
When these young players return, they will be better, stronger and wiser
then now and will add to the depth that would have emerged through the ranks
since their departure.
We have to
let go and yes, move past this fear of “losing our Springboks” to the French
and English billionaire club owners, after all, “Springbok” and “Best” is only
labels that each player has to proof every single time he takes to the field,
without exception. In South Africa we
have many players that are worthy of the Springbok label, but who is yet to be
bestowed with it. It is just a matter of
the right opportunity at the right time.
weekend 12 Springboks (Bulls) played 3 Springboks (Stormers). The Bulls had the Springboks, but the
Stormers had the “Best”, and it showed in the results. I rest my case.
Gary Boshoff is a former SARU player (1984-1986)
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