Silly season during COVID-19 lockdown
REACTION: It was with some considerable disdain that so-called ‘experts’ reacted to @rugby365com‘s recent warning of a ‘feeding frenzy’ on World Cup Springboks.
At the heart of the issue was the very unpopular 21-day clause (with a May 14 deadline) in which players can tear up their contracts and head overseas.
The clause – negotiated between SA Rugby, the players union MyPlayers, the South African Rugby Employers’ Organisation and the staff union Sports Employees’ Unite – is part of a wide-ranging plan to cut between ZAR700-million to ZAR1-billion from the SA Rugby budget over the next eight months.
It turns out the article (to recap, CLICK HERE) was a lot closer to the truth than some would acknowledge at the time.
The apologists will say it is the best deal possible in these testing times and agents vehemently deny it is greed that is driving the frenzy.
However, it did not come as a surprise to hear that World Rugby Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit has been courted by clubs and franchises abroad.
French giants Montpellier, ambitious Premiership outfit Harlequins and two clubs in Japan are queuing up for Du Toit’s signature.
The money being thrown at the Bok loose forward is simply too big for the cash-strapped Stormers to have a realistic chance to retain his services.
It certainly doesn’t help that their hands are being tied with a crazy clause – as negotiated by the SA Rugby, MyPlayers, SAREO and SEU kaboodle – that local unions can’t make any counter offers or employ third parties to help shore up salaries that have been dramatically cut.
It is a fact that the 21-day clause is a major bone of contention.
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Agents originally wanted a three-month clause and the SA Rugby consortium eventually agreed to the 21-day clause as a compromise – with the rider of no counteroffers from local unions.
Apart from Du Toit, a few other high-profile names have been mentioned in the European grapevines.
Makazole Mapimpi, 29, is another said to be seriously considering tearing up his heavily-reduced SA Rugby contract and exchange it for a more lucrative European version.
Dillyn Leyds (La Rochelle) and Wilco Louw (Harlequins) are already heading abroad, but the mess created by the 21-day clause can increase the queue at the Newlands exit door substantially.
Jaco Coetzee and Cobus Wiese are two other names said to be targets of European clubs – despite the fact that they have their own financial strains.
The dramatic slide of the South Africa Rand, against other currencies, means SA players are becoming more affordable by the day.
It allows those Euro outfits to recruit quality players at a fraction of the cost of those internationals already in their systems.
And the 21-day clause has opened up the front door for agents looking to cash in quickly.
One player unlikely to succumb to the lure of the Euro (or whatever foreign currency is thrown at him) is the Springboks’ World Cup-winning captain Siyamthanda Kolisi.
Hilton Houghton, Kolisi’s agent, emphatically denied that he is considering offers from abroad.
“Siya has committed to staying in SA,” Houghton told @rugby365com, adding: “He has many projects in SA that he feels passionate about to fulfil.”
Houghton suggested the number of departures will be a trickle, rather than a rush.
“The irony is that very few positions and [limited] budget is available from foreign clubs.
“This battle with COVID-19 is global in rugby and I don’t foresee many players departing this season.
“Those leaving would have signed prior to COVID-19 lockdown.
“This is not a time [for agents] to ‘cash in’ on players, as there simply is no big deals out there.
“It is rather a time to be conservative in the management process and make the best decision for your players.”
Bulls centre Johnny Kotze was the first high-profile player to tear up his contract as part of the 21-day clause.