SA rugby players keen to end contracts to beat pay cuts

The Sharks could lose Makazole Mapimpi Picture: Samuel Shivambu / BackpagePix
The Sharks could lose Makazole Mapimpi Picture: Samuel Shivambu / BackpagePix

Thursday looms as the transfer deadline within a transfer deadline for South African rugby.

This is because May 14 is the last day of the 21-day window period local rugby players were given by SA Rugby to terminate their contracts so they could avoid the Covid-19 coronavirus-enforced pay cuts that will reflect at the end of this month.

Traditionally, October 31 is the transfer deadline day in South Africa, but with two of the six local franchises participating in the Europe-based Pro 14, it was necessary for June 30 to become another horse-trading day.

Now Thursday is shaping up to be third transfer window as players try to duck the effects of rugby’s cost-cutting to make up for the losses they stand to incur due to the suspensions, postponements and cancellations of competitions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bulls utility back Johnny Kôtze was first to fly the nest by telegraphing his intentions to leave the same week the salary cuts were announced.

There has been talk of World rugby player of the year Pieter-Steph du Toit going to French club Montpellier for ridiculous sums, given the game’s current climate

But the rest of his colleagues – and their agents – have played their cards close to their chests.

There has been talk of World rugby player of the year Pieter-Steph du Toit going to French club Montpellier for ridiculous sums, given the game’s current climate.

The Sharks’ dynamic Springbok duo, Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am, have been roped into the speculation as well – with Japan and Europe mooted as respective destinations.

But, while the rest of the players have kept their intentions to themselves, it sounds like there are all kinds of considerations taking place behind closed doors.

When the pay cut announcement was made, the assumption was that the players would opt for the safety of job security despite lower salaries.

Yet the money at the overseas clubs is such that even if they are signed at a discount, they’ll probably be making more than they would in South Africa.

But, as an official familiar with these machinations told City Press, dreams of signing with an overseas team would not necessarily prove to be a solution to their problems to the logistical issues strewn all over that process.

“They’re holding their cards close to their chest until the morning of May 14, then they’re going to drop those cards,” explained our source.

When the pay cut announcement was made, the assumption was that the players would opt for the safety of job security despite lower salaries

“It’s an interesting one because there’s one big challenge all of them have forgotten – how do you get out of South Africa to go to France or England?

“So if those clubs sign you, they’re going to have to pay you while you sit in South Africa and wait until the airports are open.

"The thing is that, on the morning of May 14, if the players tender their resignations, they get cut off immediately and don’t get paid a cent from then on.

“So their overseas deals must be so good and come with a sign-on fee at least to carry the player for the next few months as he still has to live off something, and chances are he’ll be in South Africa for at least the next two months or so.

“A few of the agents were a bit surprised to find out that the club owners overseas don’t intend to pay the players now because their seasons are starting later.”

A player agent in France said his South African counterparts were hard at work trying to move their players there, “but there aren’t so many opportunities in Europe for now” because they, too, are dealing with the fallout from the pandemic.

MyPlayers chief executive officer, Eugene Henning, said they didn’t know how many players were going to terminate their contracts as they had until May 14 to do so.

“Only then will we know,” he said.


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