Sharks stars remain but Pieter-Steph eyes France
The Lions won’t get World Cup winner Malcolm Marx back from Japan, but Elton Jantjies is staying until after next year’s series against the British and Irish Lions.
But, there was no finality last night about whether World Rugby’s 2019 Player of the Year, Pieter-Steph du Toit, had opted out of his contract with Western Province and the Stormers to take up a big-money offer from Montpellier in France.
The Springbok flank was rumoured to have made a late decision on Thursday night to cancel his contract in the Cape and take up the deal abroad.
The deadline for South Africa’s professional players to cancel their employment contracts with the local unions was at midnight Thursday, a move brought to light to help save the SA Rugby industry millions of rands following the spread of the coronavirus and the suspension of all rugby across the globe.
The players were given 21 days to terminate their contracts, with employers forbidden from negotiating with the players.
Marx and young back Tyrone Green were the big losses suffered by the Lions, even though Marx didn’t play at all for the team this year after he joined the Shining Arcs in Japan after last year’s World Cup. He, however, was due to return in June and play Super Rugby next year ahead of the visit by the British and Irish Lions next year. Green, meanwhile, has apparently taken up an offer from Harlequins, while Ruan Vermaak and Shaun Reynolds have also chosen to move on from the Lions.
Good news for the Sharks is that hot-targets, World Cup stars, Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am, are staying in Durban, as are Curwin Bosch and Thomas du Toit, who are believed to have been targets for clubs in Europe. Flank Tyler Paul though opted “out” of his contract.
In Pretoria, centre Johnny Kotze has decided to end his association with the Bulls earlier than expected, while at the Stormers flyhalf Jean-Luc du Preez is believed to be on his way to Japan, following flank Cobus Wiese out of Newlands.
Meanwhile, South African rugby industry stakeholders announced on Friday they had taken pay cuts, among other economies, to slice up to R1.2-billion from the sports budget by the end of the year. The plan was designed and concluded by organisations representing SA Rugby, provincial unions, players and rugby industry employees.
The economies will be achieved by reduced expenditure following the cancellation of competitions (49.7% of savings), cuts in other operational budgets (37.3%) and in salary reductions (13%).
“It was a complex process to find alignment with a number of entities representing 1396 people in the SA rugby industry,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby.
“(Among other things) it has meant salary cuts for many, but we have put together a plan that will ensure the industry will be positioned and resourceful to get straight back to action just as soon as we are permitted.”
SA Rugby furthermore said they had presented their “return-to-play” plan to the government and, according to Roux, had “a strong case”.
“The return to play of our provincial teams - even if it is behind closed doors - would be hugely beneficial to a nation in lockdown,” said Roux.