By Jos Robson
"Rugby has started growing commercially not only in South Africa but all over the world, which has created so many opportunities for so many people on the outside who have no real rugby background or love for the sport and are now beginning to exploit the player."
A somewhat disturbing statement made by former Natal and All Black No 8 Murray Mexted. But so true in the new era of professionalism. Mexted was in Durban a week ago to meet with local club rugby chairmen and coaches to introduce his new company, Mexsport, which he recently established to specialise in which he refers to as "the appropriate placement of rugby personnel and the negotiations of contracts that will be fair to all parties, but more particularly for the player".
Mexted, who played for Natal in the late 70s, recalls how he had come to Durban and had been given a job by Mike Moon of Sigma, now McCarthy's. He was introduced to DHS Old Boys by Moon and duly started playing his club rugby there. "They were great fun days and club rugby was the heart and sole of the game in those days."
The game has changed radically since then of course, and over the years Mexted has become more and more frustrated by the number of agents ringing him for references for players they were trying to place overseas. It soon became apparent to him that these agents didn't understand the different styles of rugby around the world and so often players were placed in the wrong environment. For Mexted it is of the utmost importance for a player to go to a location that suites his style and growth in rugby.
Having heard about the many provincial fringe players being approached and taken away from their clubs, he realised SA club rugby was suffering the same fate as the New Zealand club game and decided to do something about it.
So many local provinces are losing players at all levels and in some instances they are sometimes never seen again. Mexted aims to provide a service whereby players can be seconded to other locations but still retained by their club or province and kept in the system. This has already happened with Sharks wing Justin Swart who has been seconded to Otago and will be playing rugby at the respectable and competitive level that suites his needs and not the agents.
The contacts that he will deal with in each country will help identify players' needs in their regions, and in Durban Albert Heenop, who is Mexsport's representative in Natal, has already spoken to a few players - hence Swart's move.
Former Bok flank Rob Louw will look after the Cape region and the bottom line is for the player to go to a place that will help his game and for his progress and physical fitness to be monitored during his time away from his club and province. The player must grow and return a better and more confident footballer so he can be of greater value to his province, which would in turn have first option to negotiate a contract with him.
Mexted's other concern about SA rugby is how players have become bigger than the game since his playing days here.
In Australia and New Zealand, provincial players still play club rugby much more often and are never allowed to lose touch with their roots. The SA problem is far too many provincial programmes with little focus on the club game.
Maybe we should be looking at the structure of the game rather than condemning the Bok performances and shouting for Nick Mallett's head.
John Allan, a former Bok hooker, is putting something back into club rugby. He has done enormous work in putting together his "Return of the Legends" banquet which is scheduled for this Friday at Tungay Park, the night before the Tri-Nations Test between SA and Australia.
Guest speakers include some of the great commentators of the modern era from New Zealand, Australia and Scotland. They will also host a number of big names of yesteryear, including Joel Stransky, Martin van Rensburg, Kevin de Klerk, Don Walton, Jeremy Thomson and Dick Muir. In the afternoon three matches will be played, including a school's game between Glenwood and Kearsney. For more details
contact Lisa on 031-3128382.