Johannesburg - South African rugby bosses are readying themselves to try and stave off a massive assault on their player corps from former Springbok coach Jake White.
According to the supersport.com website, while European clubs poaching local players is nothing new, there is a lot of talk in local rugby circles about White and his “shopping list” - which includes a number of top Springbok and local players to move to Montpellier.
White has apparently been given the go-ahead - and loads of cash to back it - to lure some of the top South African talent to Europe, and right now he is targeting specific top South African talent.
This latest threat, coupled with the natural exodus after the Rugby World Cup later this year, may well see a massive group of players leave these shores again.
Already White has signed Western Province flyhalf Dimitri Catrakilis and the Bulls SA Under-20 giant Jacques du Plessis to join the French club at the end of the season and it is clear he is intent on building a Super team for the French club.
There are rumours that both the Du Plessis brothers - Bismarck and Jannie - have already signed despite clauses in their SA Rugby contracts that only allow them to start negotiating in June.
White apparently has a “hit list” of South African players - many of them who are not Springboks already - that he is targeting to sign for the French club.
The former Bok coach’s knowledge of local players is to his advantage, although his chequered history with clubs - White hardly stays at a club for more than a year - and his acrimonious fallout with the Sharks and Brumbies in recent years doesn’t seem to count against him.
At the moment it is the cash talking, so much so that the Bulls knew straight away they weren’t able to even come close to matching the massive offer that White made to the 120kg utility forward.
In Du Plessis’ case there is more to the story. There were whispers at Loftus Versfeld that he wasn’t happy with the arrival of Cheetahs flank Lappies Labuschagne - on a contract said to be more than double Du Plessis’ current salary, and was furthermore nonplussed by the prospect of moving to lock.
Given this background, the massive offer - said to be in the region of R5 million a season - was almost impossible to refuse, especially as it is around six times the youngster’s current salary.
The weak rand played its part, but not even an earnest plea from Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer - who phoned Du Plessis and tried to convince him to stay, could stop the player from following the money.
White has also lured his namesake - Brumbies scrumhalf Nick White to join Montpellier - who already have South Africans Wynand Olivier and Robert Ebersohn, and New Zealander Rene Ranger on their books.
The irony of White doing exactly what he always complained about regarding overseas clubs is not lost on the SA Rugby hierarchy either, but in a professional game where money rules, it is unlikely that they can do much to stop him.
Still, the rugby public shouldn’t be surprised if they hear a number of big names heading to Montpellier on big money contracts in the next few months.
Du Plessis and Catrakilis are said to be the first of many on the hit list, and with a shift in momentum after the World Cup, the hit list could simply quicken an already precarious exodus of talent from these shores.