Overseas demand declines for local rugby players

2011-02-11 00:00

SOUTH African Rugby Players’ Association (Sarpa) chief executive Piet Heymans agrees with Rudolf Straeuli that the demand of overseas rugby clubs for local players is dropping.

Straeuli, the former Springbok coach and now the Sharks’ commercial manager, travelled to Europe over Christmas and was surprised to find that a number of South African players are keen to return home.

“The financial squeeze is really hurting the overseas clubs,” Straeuli told The Witness last month. “Players in Ireland have had to take a 30% wage cut and clubs in France are now only really interested in South African props.”

Straeuli said a couple of former Springboks are among the players eager to return home.

Heymans agreed and told News24 this week that the attraction for South African players to play their rugby overseas is wearing off.

“It appears as if foreign clubs are also experiencing financial pressure. France are increasingly putting regulations in place to limit the number of overseas players. One of the other factors is the salary cap in England that has not increased significantly. The money available to lure players is getting less,” said Heymans.

“One of the main reasons we believe it’s less attractive [to play overseas] is the new commercial model between Sarpa and the South African Rugby Union. It gives players [Boks] an additional income when they are used for appearances or in advertisements.

“It is about their collective image rights. In many instances it wipes out the differences between what a player can earn overseas and in South Africa.

“It is additional income that was not there before.”

Heymans said that even “less marketable” Boks would earn money from the agreement.

“The guys that make the most appearances also earn the most, but there is a percentage that goes to the rest of the players because everybody contributes to the team’s success,” said Heymans.

One of South Africa’s leading agents, Chris de Beer, agreed and said the exchange rate also plays a role in players’ decisions.

“The strong rand is a factor. The salaries that top unions pay in South Africa now also compare favourably with what clubs offer overseas,” said De Beer.

But of course, the Lions, with big ambitions and massive backing, are still at the front of the shopping queue and the other franchises cannot match them … at least financially.

They are now targeting the signature of Springbok lock Bakkies Botha as their next major signing for 2012.

Botha’s contract ends at the end of October with the Bulls, who have reportedly not spoken to Botha about staying on because he had said he wanted to move on.

Botha, Fourie du Preez, Danie Rossouw and Victor Matfield have all said they are leaving the Bulls after the World Cup.

The Lions, turned down by Andries Bekker, now have Bakkies in their sights — as well as Frans Steyn and BJ Botha.


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