Johannesburg - SA Rugby may have succeeded in keeping many of our top players in the country with some innovate contracting at national level, but just below that the game is facing a massive player exodus once again at the end of this year’s Vodacom Super Rugby competition.
According to the supersport.com website, at least 45 players have been confirmed to be moving abroad as the player drain continues, with the unique feature this time that a number of South African coaches have also been targeted by overseas clubs.
While many of the players are either journeymen or looking to continue their careers elsewhere to earn money abroad, there are two significant features in the player drain that need attention, with the weak rand still being a major factor in the decisions of many when they consider offers abroad.
The first is the change in rules by the Japanese clubs to allow an extra foreign player to be contracted by clubs as long as he has not represented his country in the past, and can potentially qualify for Japan in the future. This has seen a number of players - like the Bulls’ forwards Grant Hattingh and Lappies Labuschagne - say goodbye to Super Rugby and they will now play solely in the Japanese league, not returning to South Africa like a number of players in the past.
The list below includes a number of players - including Springboks Elton Jantjies, Warren Whiteley and Jaco Kriel – who will all head to Japan during the Currie Cup, but will return to South Africa in the new year to take up their posts with the Super Rugby sides as well.
But the Japanese clubs are increasingly looking for players who don’t want to play Super Rugby, and will make it worth their while to do so.
The list includes 15 current or former Springbok players, and others like Nic Groom and Louis Schreuder, who have both been in Springbok squads but haven’t played a Test yet.
With the local transfer season opening on July 1, a number of other local moves are expected in the coming weeks as well, but it is interesting to note the French clubs haven’t bought as much as in the past as the cash flow among the clubs there has been low.
The clubs have however, signed a massive new television deal which will see clubs in the Top 14 get €97 million extra from next season - meaning there is a lot of extra cash to go shopping for big name players.
The SA Rugby annual listed over 280 players playing abroad at the end of 2015, and while the list may have fluctuated somewhat with player retirements, and some moving back to South Africa, the 45 players below have all signed in recent months while another 16 South African players have completed moves to new clubs ahead of the new European season, to start in August.
The list also highlights that the number of players leaving leaves a massive hole in terms of depth for South African teams as for the first time teams like Montpellier are targeting Under-21 players to get them into their Academy system and rise into the French ranks after that.
Grey College alumni and star fullback Henry Immelman is one of these, while the 96kg wing Duhan van der Merwe, who played for Outeniqua at school is another of these players that will head for Europe this coming season.
Even a player such as Gerbrandt Grobler, the former Western Province lock, who was suspended for using banned substances, has signed with a club like Racing Metro. While his suspension ends on October 8, Grobler will continue training with the French club in the meantime.
One player is in the middle of a dispute, with new Bok Franco Mostert having signed a contract with French club Lyon, but the Lions claiming he is still one of their players. Lions CEO Rudolf Straeuli confirmed that Mostert is still considered a Lions player and is part of their future plans, despite being unveiled on the Lyon website as a new signing and Mostert himself talking of the move at a press briefing.
The effect of the mass exodus is that Super Rugby teams inevitably get younger, and the depth in local sides is eroded even more. This at a time when SA Rugby are looking to limit selections of Springboks that play abroad and pick more from locally based players as part of their campaign to keep players in the country.
Some, like 21-year old Blue Bulls lock Le Roux Roets, believe moving abroad will make them better players, as he told Sunday newspaper Rapport a few weeks back.
“The opportunity to play for one of the biggest clubs on the planet, Racing Metro, will only be offered to you once,” Roets said.
“I believe the chance to play Top 14 rugby will make me a better lock. I’m also hoping to learn a lot from a player like François van der Merwe. But the Bulls and South Africa will always be very close to my heart.”
For the first time South African coaches are in high demand as well, especially in Japan where a number such as SA Under-20 coach Dawie Theron and former Bulls coach Frans Ludeke will join the likes of Jimmy Stonehouse coaching in the Japanese league.
Players confirmed to Europe/Japan (with clubs they are heading to in brackets):
Dean Greyling (Oyonnax)
Marcel van der Merwe (Toulon)
Werner Kruger (Scarlets)
Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg (Montpellier)
Le Roux Roets (Racing Metro)
Lappies Labuschagne (Kubota Spears)
Deon Stegmann (Honda Heat)
Grant Hattingh (Kubota Spears)
Jacques Potgieter (Fukuoka Sanix Blues – returns for Super Rugby)
Duhan van der Merwe (Montpellier)
Maks van Dyk (Toulouse)
Coenie van Wyk (Toshiba Brave Lupis)
Henry Immelman (Montpellier)
Willie Britz (NTT Shining Arcs)
Francois Uys (Toyota Verblitz – returns for Super Rugby)
Vincent Koch (Saracens)
Schalk Burger (Saracens)
Nic Groom (Northampton Saints)
Louis Schreuder (Kubota Spears)
Jean Kleyn (Munster)
Marcell Coetzee (Ulster)
JP Pietersen (Leicester Tigers)
Paul Jordaan (La Rochelle)
Joe Pietersen (Kamaishi Seawaves)
Kyle Cooper (Newcastle Falcons)
Franco Mostert (Lyon)
Derick Minnie (Zebre)
Marnitz Boshoff (Connacht)
Warren Whiteley (Docomo Red Hurricanes, returns for Super Rugby)
Jaco Kriel (Kubota Spears, returns for Super Rugby)
Lionel Mapoe (Kubota Spears, returns for Super Rugby)
Elton Jantjies (NTT Shining Arcs, returns for Super Rugby) Lloyd Greeff (Zebre)
Warwick Tecklenburg (Kamaishi Seawaves, returns for Super Rugby)
Steven Sykes (Oyonnax)
Schalk Oelofste (Mont-de-Marsan)
Philip du Preez (Mont-de-Marsan)
Louis Fouche (Kubota Spears)
Aiden Davids (Toulon)
James Hall (Oyonnax, returns for Super Rugby)
Shane Gates (NTT Shining Arcs)
Jurgen Visser (Docomo Red Hurricanes)
Francois Hougaard (Worcester)
Bart Le Roux (Zebre)
Gerbrandt Grobler (Racing Metro, suspension ends October 8, 2016)
South Africans moving between overseas clubs
Pedrie Wannenberg (Castres to Denver)
Nick Fenton-Wells (Bedford to Bristol)
Pat Cilliers (Montpellier to Leicester Tigers)
Dewald Potgieter (Yamaha Jublio to Worcester Warriors)
Matt Williams (Northampton Saints to Worcester Warriors)
Sebastien de Chaves (Leicester Tigers to London Irish)
Devin Hope (Coventry to London Scottish)
Jody Jenneker (Oyonnax to Castres)
Robert Ebersohn (Montpellier to Castres)
Juandre Kruger (Racing Metro to Toulon)
Pellow van der Westhuizen (Clermont to Montauban)
George Earle (Scarlets to Cardiff)
Pat Howard (Northampton Saints to Newport Gwent Dragons)
Rynier Bernardo (Ospreys to Scarlets)
Gerhard van der Heever (Munster to Yamaha Jubilo)
Jean Cook (Zebre to Kintetsu)
Coaches heading overseas
Dawie Theron (Docomo Red Hurricanes)
Andre Tredoux (Docomo Red Hurricanes)
Rassie Erasmus (Munster)
Jacques Nienaber (Munster)
Frans Ludeke (Kubota Spears)
John McFarland (Kubota Spears)
Eugene Eloff (Austin Huns)
Phil Pretorius (Cayman Islands)
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