OPINION: Pieter-Steph du Toit's departure may have a ripple effect
The World Cup-winning forward has been in many sports headlines over the last few days, with reports linking him with a mega-money deal to French giants Montpellier.
On Sunday, it was reported that the club was showing interest in the World Rugby Player of the Year, but Montpellier have since refuted such claims in a statement issued on their website, denying that “any contractual offer has been made to Pieter-Steph du Toit” and that the speculations “only aim to harm the interests of the club, which is currently engaged in the safeguard of its structure.”
If the rumours do turn out to be true, or should Du Toit head to any other cash-rich overseas club, it would be a harsh reality that would place SA rugby in an extremely unenviable position.
On the technical side there would be the frustration that comes with franchises not being able to negotiate with their own players.
If any player chooses to exercise the controversial 21-day escape clause as part of a collective bargaining agreement implemented and just one of the negative effects the Covid-19 pandemic has brought on, that franchise’s hands would be tied as SA franchises will not be able to enter into negotiations or make counter-offers should such a situation arise.
The loss of Du Toit - whether it happens now or in the near future - would obviously be a huge departure for the Stormers especially.
And even though it wouldn’t rule him out of Bok contention, the same as with any other overseas-based player, it would have an ill effect on SA rugby and Super Rugby teams.
For years now the quality of a competition like the Currie Cup has suffered under the lure of overseas money, but and while the effects of the coronavirus pandemic is by no means native to SA sport, having a player, one who has been a poster boy for loyalty to the Boks like Du Toit has, leave during this time could open the tap and see many, many more SA players head for more lucrative, financially-secure pastures. After all, what message would it send to others, others who may not even have half the resolution the loose forward has to stay in SA to make sure that his chances of playing in the Bok jumper aren’t affected at all?
There is no telling how things will go from here, and while Du Toit has been a major talking point, he is certainly not the only player who can cultivate interest abroad.
And should he leave, SA rugby could have more to worry about then just when rugby can resume.@WynonaLouw