CAPE TOWN – While all present admitted that it was not the perfect model, SA director of rugby Rassie Erasmus feels that the new contracting model won’t negatively affect the Springboks.
SA Rugby, MyPlayers and the South African Rugby Employers’ Organisation (Sareo) announced on Friday that they have come to an agreement on player contracts that will benefit all levels of the sport in Mzansi.
The major effects of the deal are as follows:
* Joint development of players of national interest (PONI) by unions and Springbok management
* Caps on squad size and player budgets per union
* Identified categories for payment: professional; semi-professional and development players (21 or younger who have not been offered a professional contract)
* And a “commitment clause” by which young players will be rewarded for longer term commitment to South Africa.
Teams at the Super Rugby, PRO14 and Currie Cup Premier Division levels can contract a maximum of 45 players with a salary cap of R60 million, with Griquas and Pumas limited to R15 million.
Currie Cup First Division teams can secure 23 professional players, and up to 45 in total with a budget of R6 million, which will include semi-professional and others such as club players who are handed temporary contracts as required.
In terms of development players, the salary cap is R10 million, although there are no limits on the number of players.
But if this seems to favour the players, franchises and provincial unions, as they would be working with the players on a regular basis and are regarded as the primary employers.
The danger is then that they would have first-call on star players, who may have been better off by resting for a few weeks as needed, which would be enforceable with a central contracting system.
That looks to be the case with Handre Pollard, the first-choice Bok flyhalf who had to fly all the way to Dunedin for Friday’s Bulls game against the Highlanders.
But when asked if the Springbok team would then have to take a back seat, and that he as the national coach won’t have a say on how a player is managed, Erasmus felt that it wouldn’t be the case.
“That’s one of the reasons why we took so long to have this press conference. We really made sure that we ticked all those boxes. We had a lot of workshops and a lot of franchise meetings, and meetings with the players and MyPlayers to make sure that that is not the case,” Erasmus said at a press conference at the SA Rugby headquarters in Plattekloof on Friday.
“With every single player who is a player of national interest, you are going to have a contract with the franchise on each individual player, (where) we will have our own parameters in place to make sure Player X, for example, has a high performance programme in place for that specific player.
“With Handre, that was actually the plan as Handre needed some game time. Otherwise if the Bulls, for example, fell out of the competition next week, Handre would’ve gone into the Rugby Championship having not played for five or six weeks.
“There are a lot of things like that, which is part of the players’ interest.”
MyPlayers chief executive Eugene Henning said that as an industry, rugby realised that there are too many professional players.
Now, with this new plan that will come into effect from November this year, more players will have clarity on their futures.
“It helps with job security for players, and provides a clear career path for players. It’s not the perfect model or be-all, but it is a solid first step for the future,” Henning said.
Erasmus admitted that the new way of doing things will result in some players deciding to go overseas, perhaps to earn more money, but the current situation already sees hundreds of South Africans plying their trade away from home anyway.
He added that there won’t be any cap limits in terms of selecting overseas-based players for the Springbok team.
“You get two types of players who go overseas – one who goes for the money, relaxes and is winding down his career, and the other who also wants financial security, but still has a burning desire to play for the Springboks. So, we still want to work with those guys who want to play for South Africa.”