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No more cattle carriages for SA players

NEWS: The players’ union in South Africa, MyPlayers, issued a statement outlining the way forward to find the balance between player welfare and competition schedules.

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It comes after an arbitration verdict significantly favoured the players’ union in their dispute with the South African Rugby Football Union and SAREO.

The arbitrator ruled that #ALL provincial players must rest for an uninterrupted eight-week period once every 12 months.

The new player welfare model also focuses on travel arrangements for teams competing in the United Rugby Championship and EPCR competitions.

“This new development also offered an opportunity to comprehensively review the player welfare landscape of the South African players,” said Mandisi Tshonti, General Manager of Player Affairs at MyPlayers.

“The parties therefore agreed that certain player welfare adjustments were required in order to serve the revamped competition schedule and we are excited with the new adjustments.”

The new player welfare adjustments are as follows:

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As of July 1, 2025, all teams participating in the URC and EPCR competitions will travel on international trips as follows:

  • Starting team (15 players): Business class
  • Reserve players (eight players): Premium Economy class
  • Additional squad members: Economy class
  • Travel will include no more than one stopover en route to a destination, with access to relevant comfort facilities (such as lounges) during the stopover.

The World Rugby Player Load principles as identified by an independent panel of experts will be adopted for South African players.

The Independent Panel of Experts will determine the following:

  • Appropriate off-season measures to promote player rest and welfare.
  • Amount of games that players can play per year given their load exposure.
  • In-season rest must be applied to ensure necessary physical and mental recovery periods for players.

The mandatory eight-week rest period for players to be broken up as follows:

  • Three weeks of complete rest.
  • Two-week reactivation period (no physical contact).
  • Three-week pre-season conditioning period

It also includes the following:

  • Players can’t play for longer than a 10-month period without the eight-week rest period being applied.
  • The above periods may be adjusted if in the best interest of a player provided it is agreed to by the player, MyPlayers and the province.
  • Players will receive a minimum of three months’ notice when his/her rest period will be introduced in order to manage and plan their personal lives.

A player activity system will also be implemented:

  • MyPlayers, SARU and SAREO will collaborate to track the load of each individual player and ensure that the newly adopted player welfare guidelines are applied correctly.

Isma-eel Dollie, National Player Affairs Manager at MyPlayers, praised the new additions, saying: “There is no doubt that the player load increased significantly over the past few years, and it is a very positive step for the industry to recognise it and make the necessary changes to ensure the players are looked after in a professional manner, comparable with world best standards.”

These changes will come into effect as soon as all the relevant agreements are signed.

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