United Rugby Championship

Jake asks awkward Bok questions after Nyakane move: 'We need to talk about overseas player rule'

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Jake White. (Photo by Harry Murphy/Gallo Images)
Jake White. (Photo by Harry Murphy/Gallo Images)
  • Trevor Nyakane's move to France raises awkward and important questions over the future of SA's franchises, particularly regarding the Springboks' overseas-based players rule.
  • Bulls mentor Jake White believes there needs to be a discussion over the rule because it directly affects local teams negatively.
  • He also points out that currently, the return on investment in players of Nyakane's calibre is too low to try and keep them in South Africa.

Trevor Nyakane's confirmed departure for France raises awkward questions over the Springboks' unlimited quota on overseas-based players as well as the salary cap imposed on local franchises by SA Rugby.

While admitting from the outset that he doesn't have a definitive answer, Bulls mentor Jake White on Wednesday insisted that a robust discussion on the issue needed to happen in the near future.

The 32-year-old Springbok prop departs for the outskirts of Paris soon, where he'll be joining French giants Racing 92 on a two-year contract after the club agreed to fork out a reported R5 million transfer fee.

As a result, what should've been an emotional and possibly even controversial move has now been rendered an obvious one due to simple economics.

READ | CONFIRMED: Nyakane leaves Bulls to join Racing 92 in France

"Trevor was never going to stay forever. That's something we always expected, for no other reason than we couldn't see him post another World Cup wanting to play domestic rugby," said White.

"The timing is never ideal, but we wouldn't have picked him anyway for the (weekend's United Rugby Championship derby against the Sharks) and we probably wouldn't have had a lot of his services in the next two years. That's because next year he would be involved in the Rugby Championship and in 2023 it's all going to be about World Cup preparation.

"If you do your sums and work out a return on investment - not taking anything away from Trevor, who's been fantastic for the Bulls, a real team guy - but sometimes it's the right time to let a guy go."

SA Rugby has synchronised the local calendar from 2022 to reflect the new September-to-June URC window, but the fly in the ointment remains the Springboks' participation in the Rugby Championship which, along with year-end European tours, severely limits the availability of men like Nyakane.

"We need to have a discussion about what we want for our local franchise scene," said the Bulls' director of rugby.

"If you're looking after your franchise, you don't want guys like Trevor just playing 5 or 6 games a year and you never really see them.    

"Surely if overseas clubs in England or France were in the same position, they surely wouldn't buy those players? Looking at the Trevor model, it's not ideal. It's probably better for them to go overseas."

Compounding the situation is that, bar the Bulls selling the type of vision that attracts "premium" players like Johan Goosen and Marcell Coetzee, the Boks' overseas-based player rule removes any remaining incentive for top national players to stay in the country.

"What has to be looked at going forward, as a franchise coach, is overseas players being picked for South Africa. Is that going to be forever? Because it’s going to be to the detriment of franchise rugby. That's a fact," said White.

"We see it all over the world. We see it in Australia with the Giteau rule - where you have to have played a certain amount of Tests - and whether guys like Will Skelton should be picked.

"The Irish and New Zealand model has a strict no overseas-based players rule. I'm wearing my franchise hat here and I don't know what the answer is. If you only get top players for five games, is it worth keeping them? I'm not so sure. 

"The current return on investment doesn't allow you the luxury of having such players on the books as well as having a salary cap in place. We're not as adversely affected, but imagine sides like the Stormers and Sharks with all their Boks? It's a completely different situation. I'd like to hear their views."

The Bulls' meeting with the Sharks on Friday night kicks off at 19:00. 

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