As chaotic as it was, thanks to the circumstances that gave birth to it, domestic rugby’s transfer window within a transfer window this week was an interesting snapshot of the local market.
With Thursday night being the deadline for the 21-day window for players to cancel their contracts with their rugby unions if they were to avoid having to take the blanket pay cut the industry has agreed on to stave off the forecast financial damage of Covid-19 on the sport, this week was an experience in practically everyone involved in rugby chasing their tail.
And in the developments surrounding Makazole Mapimpi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Malcolm Marx – who were reportedly sitting with massive offers of varying heft – we got a glimpse of the kinds of Springboks who exist.
In Mapimpi’s case, the picture that emerged was that of a Bok of the overly loyal kind, while Du Toit – usually so direct on the field – came across as a wavering sort, with Marx proving as decisive as he’s always looked by taking what was said to be an eye-wateringly lucrative offer from Japan.
Mapimpi turning down an alleged R9 million annual contract from Japan made the least sense.
The Sharks winger, whose story of rising above abject poverty to become South Africa’s first try-scorer at the third time of asking in a World Cup final, will be 30 in July, meaning he is chasing the clock with regards to cashing in from a game with a nasty reputation for spitting players out, particularly the black ones.
Hearing that he turned that kind of money down – in favour of pay cuts that kick in at the end of this month, and a promise from the Sharks to make it up to him at a later stage – hints at his loyalty either being misguided or him being more about winning things than he is about money.
Either way, nine million bucks?
Du Toit’s case, which is still hanging in the balance because it appears he has actually terminated his contract with Western Province despite having no intentions to leave, is as understandable as it is confusing.
If it is true that he stood to make R75 million over three years from signing with Montpellier (I say if it is true because the French club were vehement in their denial), there were 75 million reasons for him to leave.
But given that his family own the Kloovenburg Wine & Olive Estate, which I’m reliably told produces some of the best wine in the country, it is understandable that money wouldn’t have been a motivation to leave.
Yet his decision to cancel his contract so that he can add new clauses that would effectively bump his salary up at a time of pay cuts should, at the very least, make him look like a bad guy to his fellow players, who are in solidarity over the financial suffering that will take place over the next eight months.
But there were winners other than Marx during the 21-day window period, the first being the Cheetahs, who managed to get youngsters Marcell Muller and George Cronjé from Montpellier, and netted Howard Mnisi (Southern Kings), Andisa Ntsila (Sharks) and Jeandré Rudolph (Bulls).
It is surprising that the Bulls also seem set to benefit from the pay cut clear out. The logic around their chances of signing new players during salary cuts was that it would be nigh impossible, because the presumption will always be that the new players are coming with salary hikes.
But it would appear that they were so loaded with overpaid deadwood that, by the time new director of rugby Jake White is done signing what seems to be the whole neighbourhood, he may still be within the salary cap and still have a squad of 45.
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