Bok contracts: James not invited, Van der Linde snubs

2009-02-01 00:00

FLYHALF Butch James was not invited to join the squad of Springbok-contracted players for this year, while prop CJ van der Linde has snubbed the offer.

SA Rugby have named 20 players who were offered Springbok contracts for 2009 — the year of the British Lions — but only 19 have responded positively. The 20th, tighthead prop Van der Linde, did not bother to reply and missed Saturday night’s deadline.

Van der Linde’s lack of response is curious. He has said he was keen to return to South Africa from Ireland where he is playing club rugby, but perhaps Bok coach Peter de Villiers’s plan to field his captain John Smit at tighthead — to accommodate Bismarck du Plessis at hooker — influenced the burly prop’s decision.

The experienced James, playing for Bath, has been receiving rave reviews for his performances for the powerful English club side, but by failing to offer him a contract, De Villiers clearly regards Ruan Pienaar, still finding his way in the position, as his Test flyhalf.

Of course, the Springbok door is obviously not closed on James and Van der Linde and incentives will be paid to non-contracted players who force their way into the squad.

The contracted group of 19 includes seven players from the Sharks, six from the Blue Bulls, four from the Stormers and one each from the Lions and Free State Cheetahs.

Surprisingly, Bulls utility forward Danie Rossouw is included ahead of talented Sharks number eight Ryan Kankowksi, named South Africa’s Super 14 player of 2008, and Western Province lock Andries Bekker.

SA Rugby said the players are contracted to a remuneration structure that will run until 2011, although they will be contracted on an annual basis.

“The players’ input into this process was extremely positive,” said Andy Marinos, SA Rugby manager of national teams and acting managing director. “We met Sarpa [South African Rugby Players’ Association] in 2007 to decide on a remuneration model for the players until the next Rugby World Cup.

“The principle was to establish a new way for contracting as well as avoid the last-minute discussions we’d previously had with Sarpa on the eve of end-season tours.

“SA Rugby held talks with representatives of Sarpa — including senior Springbok players — and also two managing directors of the Super 14 franchises,” Marinos said.

He said the negotiations centred on a performance-based model, but one that contained incentives for the non-contracted players. The old model was beneficial to those select few that had contracts, while the non-contracted players received only a daily allowance and their match fees.

“We also wanted to recognise the difference between Tier I and Tier II Test nations — in the past the same match fees were paid for both.”

Contracted Springbok players for 2009:

Sharks: JP Pietersen, Adrian Jacobs, Ruan Pienaar, John Smit, Bismarck du Plessis, Frans Steyn, Tendai Mtawarira.

Lions: Jaque Fourie

Cheetahs: Juan Smith

Bulls: Fourie du Preez, Victor Matfield, Pierre Spies, Bryan Habana, Danie Rossouw, Bakkies Botha

Stormers: Conrad Jantjes, Enrico Januarie, Jean de Villiers, Schalk Burger

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