Jake warns of pitfalls in cutting SA’s player pool

Jake White (Gallo Images)
Jake White (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Former Springbok coach Jake White fears SA Rugby’s proposed plans to cut the number of professional rugby players in South Africa in half could have repercussions.

SA Rugby president Mark Alexander recently said the new system would aim to reduce the number of professional players in the country from around 990 to around 460.

However, White is not so sure this system would work and warned of potential pitfalls via a column for the All Out Rugby website.

“Some people are reading it as a positive, but if the 450 players we want to keep are the ones that leave, then we’ll be in an even deeper hole than we are now,” White wrote.

“If you’re building a pyramid, the wider the base, the higher the peak. A big school of 1 000 boys produces more quality players than a school of 450 boys. So, if you want your national rugby team to be strong, then the more players you have, the better. If we expose fewer players to professional rugby, how can we expect to compete against the best?

“Firing half of our players does have some merit because of financial considerations, but only if you’re going to keep the best players. If it’s going to mean better coaching, control and management of individuals, and fewer players sharing a bigger portion of the money, then it will have been worthwhile. But if it’s not those things, then having fewer players will be detrimental because we’ll be where we are now with less talent to choose from.”

READ Jake White's full column on the All Out Rugby website

According to Alexander’s proposal, the major franchises will only be able to contract between 40-50 players per season.

Any surplus players who are not contracted will then be placed into the draft system and used whenever they are needed.

"We’ve created a false market in this country. It’s simply not sustainable having 990 players trying to make a living," Alexander said last Wednesday at the launch of this season’s PRO14.

"We have the biggest number in the world. In the new model all the best players will be playing all the time. You won’t have the third and fourth choice guys sitting in the store-room.

"Some players will have normal jobs and work in the day, and earn a salary, and then play on weekends, and receive a game fee. Once we bring in the draft system smaller teams will benefit by being able to select players that would ordinarily not get game time at the franchises.

"This initiative is driven by the unions in conjunction with the players and their association," Alexander added. They’ve drafted this document, it’s a great one. We should’ve done this much earlier."

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