ANALYSES: The PONI system unpacked
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: @rugby365com can now reveal some of the more intimate details of the salary caps in the newly released South African player contracting model.
When it was launched as a ‘ground-breaking’ agreement between SA Rugby, the rugby employers (the South African Rugby Employers’ Organisation, SAREO) and the players’ organisation (MyPlayers) very little was known about how the salary caps will affect the various unions.
The key outcomes of the agreement were:
* 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.
However, we have unpacked exactly how the new collective bargaining agreement will influence player recruitment.
* Also see the graph below …
The big six – Super Rugby and Pro14 (who also play in the Currie Cup, Premier Division) are limited to 45 professional players and a salary cap of no more than ZAR60-million.
These teams are the Bulls, Sharks, Lions, Stormers, Cheetahs and Southern Kings.
The two other Currie Cup teams, Pumas and Griquas, have a much smaller budget – just ZAR15-million.
The remaining teams, who only compete in the First Division – Boland, South Western Districts, Leopards, Falcons, Border Bulldogs and Griffons – have even bigger limitations placed on them. They may contract no more than 23 professional players or 40 players in total (including semi-professional players) and have a salary cap of just ZAR6-million.
However, players can ‘top up’ their salaries through the intervention of ‘outside’ sponsors and SA Rugby top-up.
It means a specific player could earn ZAR2-million from his franchise, but top it up with an additional ZAR2-million from an outside sponsor and an additional top-up from SA Rugby.
It is similar to the pact that saw the Stormers’ Springbok prop Steven Kitshoff decide to stay in Cape Town and decline a big ‘offer’ from Sale Sharks.
The player categories are:
* Professional players (full-time players) who will be eligible to play in Super Rugby, Pro14 and Currie Cup competitions;
* Semi-professional players (part-time rugby players) who may only be contracted to play in the First Division and in the domestic Challenge Cup competitions;
* And development players (21 or younger who have not been offered professional contracts) who will play in the Under-21 and Under-20 competitions. However, they may be made available as temporary replacements for professional and semi-professional players;
* Club players may be contracted as temporary replacements for injured professional and semi-professional players.
Squad size and player salary bill:
* Super Rugby, Pro14 or Currie Cup (Premier Division) unions may not contract more than 45 professional players and have a salary bill greater than ZAR60-million (which will be phased in over three years) or of more than ZAR15-million in the case of the Pumas and Griquas.
* First Division teams may contract no more than 23 professional players or more than 40 players in total (including semi-professional players). Their remuneration cap is set at ZAR6-million.
* Unions may contract an unlimited number of development players providing they stay within a cap of ZAR10-million for Super Rugby and Pro14 unions (reducing to ZAR7,5-million in year two) and ZAR1-million for all other teams.
For some of the bigger unions, this will involve massive cuts.
The Bulls, who had already made drastic cuts in their spending this year, will lose a large number of their Springboks.
Players departing include Lodewyk de Jager (to Sale Sharks), Jason Jenkins (Verblitz), Eli Snyman (Benetton), Rudolf Snyman (Heat), Duane Vermeulen (Spears), Handré Pollard (Montpellier) and Jesse Kriel (Eagles).
At the height of their recruitment drive, they had spent over ZAR100-million on player contracts, which dropped to ZAR90-million and more recently ZAR76-million.
The other franchise with major budgetary constraints is the Stormers. Their budget had to be slashed from about ZAR80-million.
However, given their current financial position, it is unclear if they have enough to even reach the ZAR60-million cap.
They are involved in intense contract negotiations with most of their Springboks – with Eben Etzebeth (to Toulon) and Damian de Allende (Wild Knights) the only internationals who have confirmed their departures.
The Sharks will also lose a number of Springboks. Coenie Oosthuizen (Sale Sharks), Armand van der Merwe (Sale Sharks), Ruan Botha (London Irish) and Robert du Preez (Sale Sharks) have confirmed their departure. Du Preez’s brothers, twins Jean-Luc and Dan, will join him at Sale for a loan spell before returning to Durban. They are set to return to Sale after next year’s Super Rugby season.
The Lions will be without just two of their Springboks – Malcolm Marx and Albertus Smith going on Japan sabbaticals before returning to Johannesburg.
Nic Groom (Edinburgh), Robert Kruger (Shining Arcs) and Stephan Lewies (Harlequins) have confirmed their departures.
It now depends on how good the franchises and players (or their agents) are at arranging ‘top-ups’.
By Jan de Koning