Serious money in sweat

2011-10-29 00:00

A TOP Bok can earn up to R6 million a year — and the financially savvy stars of the current squad are building property and commercial empires from their sweat on the field.

Media24 Investigations show that while the Boks might have stumbled in the Rugby World Cup, dropping back to third spot in global rankings, their pay packets put them among the highest-paid rugby players in the Southern Hemisphere. Based on seniority, experience and an examination of public company— and property databases, Victor Matfield and Bryan Habana are probably the likely wealthiest of the South African World Cup squad, although public databases don’t necessarily reflect all an individual’s assets. A survey of company databases revealed Victor Matfield is involved in more companies than any other player, followed by Bryan Habana and Chiliboy Ralepelle.

When it comes to property, Pierre Spies seems the most savvy investor, with five flats in Gauteng and shares in two properties in Erasmusrand, Pretoria. Several players own multiple properties in high-value neighbourhoods.

Jacque Fourie was the biggest spender on property; deed’s office records show he spent R7,18 million on two Gauteng properties and a property in Dullstroom, followed by Habana, who has spent R6,9 million.

The fact that the names of high-profile veterans John Smit, with more than 100 international games under his belt, and Schalk Burger, don’t appear on company— and property databases means that their assets are probably held in other legal entities such as companies, close corporations or trusts. Reliable industry sources told Weekend Witness that Springboks can earn more than R5 million a year, with an additional R300 000 to R500 000 in endorsements and sponsorships.

Springbok player contracts are divided into five categories. Although the most senior players — such as John Smit, Victor Matfield and Bryan Habana — probably earn the most, salary levels are not only determined by seniority and experience. Players in the highest-paid category earn an estimated R1,6 million basic salary a year, and those in the lowest about R500 000.

On top of that, each player earns R40 000 per Test match, even if he spends all of it on the bench, and an additional R35 000 if the team wins. Therefore, if the Boks play 15 Test matches in a year and win all of them, they’ll earn another R1,125 million, or pocket R600 000 if they lose all 15. Piet Heymans, CEO of the SA Rugby Players’ Association, says in terms of their contracts players are not allowed to discuss their remuneration.

Insiders say it’s “virtually impossible” to estimate a price for a provincial player due to the wide variance in contracts. Salaries can typically start at R30 000 per month for the duration of the season, but could be as high as R2 million or R3 million per year for a good player.

In all, though, a top player such as Matfield or Schalk Burger could earn R6 million per year or even more, which puts them in the same bracket as the top Australian players, who earn about R6,2 million per season, sponsorships included. The All Blacks, the world’s no.1 team, only get about R3 million per season. Junior Springboks with a lower profile could earn just over R1 million for a season.

Saru is the only one of the three Sanzar countries which doesn’t disclose the value of its player contracts. Spokesmen for both the New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association and Australian Rugby Union were willing to discuss players’ remuneration with Weekend Witness. All told, a player can expect to earn between R300 000 and R500 000 from advertisements. One exception is Bryan Habana, who is rumoured to have pocketed R1 million for appearing in an international Gilette Fusion campaign.

SA Rugby spends around R120 million of its budgeted R520 million expenditure per year on salaries.

• investigations@media24.com

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