Player exodus concerns Bulls

    2013-05-23 08:02

    Brenden Nel - SuperSport

    Pretoria - Bulls CEO Barend van Graan has admitted that it is a major concern the way Bulls players are being targeted for moves overseas, reports the website.

    However, Van Graan was quick to point out there were financial limits on what the Blue Bulls could do to keep the players in South Africa, and that if it didn’t fit into the budget of the union, there was no way to keep the players.

    His sentiments echo that of several other rugby chief executives across the Southern Hemisphere, who have seen their top talent lured away by clubs in Japan, France and the United Kingdom.

    But the Bulls have been particularly hard hit - losing the likes of Fourie du Preez, Victor Matfield, Danie Rossouw, Bakkies Botha, Gurthro Steenkamp, Gary Botha and others at the end of 2011.

    This year they have already been impacted when top Springboks Morne Steyn, Juandre Kruger, Zane Kirchner and Jacques Potgieter said they would be leaving Loftus Versfeld for overseas pastures.

    Wynand Olivier is also set to leave the team at the end of Super Rugby season, while there is not finality over the contracts of the likes of Dewald Potgieter, Jano Vermaak, Francois Venter and Willie Wepener.

    The latest name to be linked to a move is hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle, who has linked his decision to whether or not he gets a Springbok contract.

    If all the players mentioned leave at the end of Super Rugby, the Bulls will have lost an entire match squad in just two years, making them particularly susceptible to the lure of overseas cash.

    Van Graan, who also serves as the head of the South African Rugby Employers Organisation (SAREO), said the trend is that players are leaving South Africa earlier in their career.

    “In the first place, our core business is to develop human capital to play rugby in professional competitions in platforms that SARU have delivered to us. As we have said previously, we have challenges from Japan, France and the United Kingdom. There is also a trend that players are leaving South Africa earlier,” he said on the matter.

    “It is a concern, but it is also important to us that we have a sustainable stable business. We have a budget. We can only give out as much money as we have in the budget. We are comfortable in discussions with the coach that we will keep the majority of our players. I believe we will keep Chili at the Bulls.”

    Van Graan said that despite the players leaving, he felt there were good structures at the Bulls that allowed them to attract young talent, which they will continue to do as they have done over the past few years.

    The Bulls have been involved in almost every major junior final over the last few years and tend to sign a host of junior talent every year.

    “Our core business is to develop human capital. When we market ourselves as a brand to young players, we say to them join the Bulls, you can align with what we stand for as a brand. You can utilise our structures and coaches and there is an opportunity for you to become an SA under-20 player and a Springbok.

    “Since Frans became coach in 2008, he delivered 16 Springboks, and we believe that players will still join us. As long as we keep our focus and our players and coaches deliver between the four lines.”

    Ralepelle will make up his mind soon enough, as will the others, but there are deeper questions for the entire SA Rugby community to answer as the rand continues to fall and the lure of overseas currency becomes even bigger.

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