Duanne Olivier Photo: BackpagePix
South Africans should stop taking it so personally when a sports star heads overseas for financial reasons. It’s not done out of spite or because of a lack of patriotism or because these respective individuals lack loyalty.

Those who represent national sporting federations, regions and provinces should also get some perspective.

Why the shock? Why the vitriol? Why the anger?

Sport is no longer a pastime. Rugby’s fabric changed when the game went professional in 1996 and the Indian Premier League and all other T20 tournaments that have followed have transformed the cricketing commercial landscape.

There is money to be made overseas because of the exchange rate. Players’ career lifespans are limited in this professional age. Internationally, a rugby player can’t project beyond five years. A lucrative European, English or Japanese club career is 10 years.

In cricket, it’s only a select sublime few that get closer to a decade at the highest level. Why condemn a player for accepting the overseas financial rewards?  

Why question the morality of, for example, former Proteas fast bowler Duanne Olivier, who declined Cricket South Africa’s national contract in favour of an English country contract that is commercially double the worth in a far less demanding playing environment?

Olivier, like former Proteas seamer Kyle Abbott, had to wait a long time to become an international regular. Oliver and Abbott made business decisions. They made them with consideration and they did so unemotionally.

The Kolpak contract means an overseas player qualifies as a local player in England. To do so the player gives up the right to play for his country.

Yes, Olivier and Abbott stated it was difficult to give up international cricket, but equally both were honest enough to add that at no stage could they be guaranteed selection for the national team.

Money talks in professional sport, just like it does in any other form of business.

South African celebrities whose careers have prospered on a global stage because they are based in the UK or US are applauded as ambassadors of what is possible from those born and schooled in this country.

South Africans on social media have no hesitation as claiming these South Africans as winners whenever the world is applauding their performances.

It should be the same with those sporting celebrities who move overseas and make an impact.

They are as much an extension of the quality of export from this country.

Critically, the ongoing export of players allows for rotation and for opportunity to another player to excel.

Abbott, when he announced his departure, was South Africa’s international flavour of the season. He was the in-form bowler and taking wickets. Had he stayed, the chances are Olivier would never have made the side.

Olivier is now gone and there is definitely going to be another player who steps into those big boots of his.

Some sanity is needed when assessing player movement overseas. It’s a tribute to our sporting strength that so many South Africans are in such demand overseas. It certainly is not a betrayal.

Keohane is an award-winning sports journalist and the head of sport at Independent Media