Rassie explains new Bok contracting model

2019-03-05 17:36
Rassie Erasmus (Gallo Images)
Rassie Erasmus (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - SA Rugby can no longer afford to compete with European markets when it comes to securing the services of the country's top rugby players. 

That is the major reason behind the announcement a new contracting model announced last week, and Bok coach and Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus helped explain the process at his first press conference of the 2019 World Cup year in Cape Town on Tuesday. 

Erasmus knows that it is not sustainable to keep South Africa's top players in the country given the current economic climate. 

So, from next year, SA Rugby will no longer break the bank to keep the Eben Etzebeth's, Pieter-Steph du Toit's, Siya Kolisi's and Malcolm Marx's of the world in South Africa.

Instead, those players will be allowed to take more lucrative deals up north and the money SA Rugby saves on them will be filtered back into the South African system to broaden the player pool from the bottom, up. 

It is a decision, Erasmus says, that will help with South African rugby implementing a sustainable succession plan. 

"Succession planning in South Africa is something that we've struggled to do because it's cut-throat and you're not sure how many players you are going to lose at the end of the year," he said.

"Clubs on the other side (Europe, Japan) don't always have a business model. It's a rich owner and he can spend that money whether that player is worth it or not.

"If we try and compete with that all the time we will just exhaust our budget and our succession planning on this side will just be impossible."

It means the previous model which saw the unions and SA Rugby both digging into the coffers to keep their biggest names from cashing in for a superior currency overseas. 

"We just can't bat in that league anymore," Erasmus said.

"Those guys just have too much money and the more we try and talk around that, the more we get ourselves into a corner.

"We want to keep players for R8, R9 or R10 million a year and if you keep four players, you're close to R40 million. Some of our union's entire budgets are R60 million.

"You give money to four players and then you must still try and build a squad around that. If one or two of those players get injured, then half of your budget is gone."

Instead of solidifying the services of the country's best, SA Rugby will now look to tie down a broader pool of players with potential.

"We're going to try and spread our money through more players. If a big-name player leaves, his money becomes available and we start putting it into the bottom of our system," Erasmus said.

"I've already sat with seven or eight guys and made them offers. If they don't accept it, then that money gets put back into the system.

"We'll look at who our first-choice 30 are and hopefully we can sign all of them and they will take less money to stay in South Africa, but that's not living in the real world."

The new system seeks to rank South African players by position, and that will serve as the measure of who gets offered what money. 

At this stage, it is not exactly clear what that ranking system will look like, because some players who have been offered contracts have not yet accepted or rejected those deals. 

"There is the ranking system, but it can change," Erasmus said.

"Our succession plan will work closely with the unions. We might invest into a guy who plays at the Cheetahs and is fourth-choice, but in 2023 he might be first-choice and we can keep him in the system.

"We're probably only going to reap the benefits of this in two or three years' time and take a bit of a knock now post-World Cup, but in any case you usually take a knock after a World Cup."

The new system will also see the enforcement of Regulation 9, which means that the Boks can demand that overseas clubs release their South African players during international windows. 

"Regulation 9 is there to make sure that all countries can compete and stay relevant on the world scene and unfortunately with our exchange rate we are one of those countries now," the coach said.

"Up until now there has been give or take. From 2020, we're giving the clubs time and telling them that we're going to enforce Regulation 9 because we've made the decision now that we can't pay people at that level.

"That gives the club time to consider if it would be worth signing the player and it would give the player time to consider if he wants to go there. It's about being proactive and warning the clubs, not playing hard-ball. It’s not a threat, it's just a reality.

"We are paying money that we can't afford and it's irresponsible and we are giving players false hope and crazy money for where they are not yet."

Read more on:    sa rugby  |  springboks  |  rassie erasmus  |  rugby


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