Weak rand ‘kills SA rugby’

JP Pietersen (AFP)
JP Pietersen (AFP)
Cape Town - The South African Rugby Union (SARU) has lifted the lid on the extreme difficulty of combating the exodus of players – these days younger ones as well -- from our shores because of the vulnerability of our currency.

PART 1 of Sport24's chat with SARU CEO Jurie Roux

PART 2 of Sport24's chat with SARU CEO Jurie Roux

PART 3 of Sport24's chat with SARU CEO Jurie Roux

"It kills us," SARU CEO Jurie Roux told Sport24 in a multi-pronged interview this week, when asked about the effect of the rand weakening fairly rapidly from, for instance, an exchange rate of 11 to the Euro to well over 13 this year.

"The market value on that (European) side doesn’t change ... so a tighthead prop is worth £800 000; that’s what he is worth over there.

"So it’s attractive, and then it suddenly becomes 30% even more attractive to a South African.

"And in Japan with the Yen, it’s corporates who are (driving signings), corporates with big money.

"It definitely has an effect, and what can you do about it?

"Not a lot."

But there is also, possibly, a brighter side: Roux suspects the French club relish for snapping up big-name players from elsewhere may not be a sustainable model.

"It’s quite possibly going to end up hurting the French.

"When you’ve got Toulon (increasingly weighted with South African players) playing Toulouse, there’s 46 players on display across the two match-day squads, and maybe only 14 will actually be French.

"Then you’re going to struggle when you need to pick your national side.

"It’s like the English Premiership in soccer: the lack of English players is hurting their national team’s ability to be really (strong).

"It is depleted because lots of the players are only substitutes or fringe players at their own clubs, or even playing in the next league down.

"My real hope is that the French start thinking ‘listen here, we’ve got to start limiting these numbers’ within their Top 14 competition.

"But there just seems a bottomless pit of money there, as if they’re plucking it off trees."

Roux says people have to consider more than just the appeal of the foreign currency when they lament South African players leaving for Europe or Japan.

"More than half the time, I’d say, the individuals are not quitting here just because of money.

"They are saying to themselves: ‘I just want a different experience for three years. I don’t want to play as much rugby. I can earn a lot of money, yes, but come back in three years and still be (young enough in many cases) to carry on locally where I left off’.

"There’s also the case of guys like (Ireland-based) CJ Stander: a really good player, but not too long ago he was No 4 down the line of Bulls loose forwards.

"So he seeks another opportunity, and with a bit of luck he filters back into our system, or with bad luck you find him running out for Ireland eventually.

"It is a worry: we do lose too many young guys these days.

"My biggest concern is if we start losing too many aged 18 and 19 ... going to Australia and elsewhere.

"That’s with a completely different aim in mind: saying goodbye and probably trying to qualify for the country they move to, because they don’t want to play (SA) U20 so they don’t get ‘captured’ under IRB regulations.

"That kind of scenario aggravates us a bit, because there’s a gentlemen’s agreement between (the SANZAR countries) that we don’t poach each others’ players.

"Still, think of a union like WP fairly recently – they had three frontline centres in Jean (de Villiers), Jaque Fourie and Juan de Jongh, then a couple of guys in waiting.

"So how many young centres beyond that group can you really expect to keep?

"Can you be blamed if your sixth, seventh or even 10th-choice midfielder opts to go somewhere else?"

Roux also sees certain advantages to the fluidity in player migration.

"If Francois Louw hadn’t gone to Bath, Siya Kolisi would not have played Super Rugby yet, so wouldn’t be playing Test rugby for South Africa now.

"Remember a world-class player like JP Pietersen will be back in 2015, and look how Fourie du Preez came back (into the Springbok picture) – he was in better shape than he’d ever been in the last two years he played for us.

"He’s rested, he’s sharp, mentally in a different place.

"He’s had a great cultural experience in Japan; his whole family has."

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @Rob Houwing

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