Stormers hope Pieter-Steph du Toit stays put on 'transfer deadline day'
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CAPE TOWN - Stormers coach John Dobson is confident they won’t receive any unpleasant surprises, like World Rugby Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit announcing his departure on the last evening of SA Rugby’s controversial 21-day escape clause.
As one of the terms in a rescue plan to deal with the repercussions of Covid-19, SA Rugby introduced a 21-day window allowing for players to cancel their current contracts with immediate effect, with their franchises not allowed to talk finances with their players to get them to stay on.
South Africa is the only rugby-playing country to implement an immediate escape clause in response to the pandemic, with the termination window running from April 24 to May 14.
There has been much media talk around Du Toit and his reported many suitors, including French club Montpellier, in recent weeks. And while it’s certainly a possibility players could draw out their exit announcement until the last minute, Dobson says he doesn’t have any reason to believe one of his players would go that route.
“There have been no real developments, I’m confident that everybody is going to stay,” Dobson said yesterday. “There are some ethical or other concerns one’s got around it, but my feeling is that everybody is staying.
“A big concern is the night of the 13th. It feels like rugby has gone into a sort of football transfer deadline situation, which is unusual, but Western Province doesn’t regard this escape clause as strictly enforceable.
“I’ve talked to a lot of the players and I’ve talked to a lot of their agents. If a player was to ring-up Thursday to say he’s leaving, he’d be making a massive breach of the rugby trust that we have and that we’re trying to build in the squad, so he wouldn’t be leaving with his reputation intact.
“If a guy was to take us right to the wire and leave and not give us a chance to have a conversation I know we’re not allowed to have a conversation around the money, but we could have a conversation around what his future is at the union and how we see it going forward and around when he returns. So that’s the one element.
“The other element is rugby is meant to be a sport of high fair-play and fraternity, and I think anybody feasting on the carcasses of other people trying to adapt to this virus is, to my mind, exploitation, it’s almost a near colonialism.”
John Dobson hopes South African rugby doesn't end up like Fiji. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky BackpagePix
Dobson added that the fact that overseas clubs can see this time as a golden opportunity to lure SA players abroad could see SA rugby experiencing the same fate as a country like Fiji, who have become an export factory to the rest of the rugby world.
“My concern is that if this clause was to carry to its potential worst side, that we could become like a Fiji with the majority of our professional players overseas,” he said. “Whether you’ve got an investor or a very generous sponsor to come and pick on those players, I think clubs that come and pick on those players, those who think ‘oh South Africa has got really bad Covid, the rand’s gone to rubbish, they’ve downed their salaries by about 40 percent and we’ve got a very generous investor who wants to go help himself to the World Player of the Year’, to me that’s against the spirit of what we need to be in this period.”