The politics behind SA player exodus
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Top-tier professional players heading abroad is one of the main challenges facing South African Rugby.
The Springboks’ victory at the 2019 World Cup has been a major boost for the country and witnessing Siya Kolisi, the first black South African Test captain, lifting the Webb Ellis has momentarily united the rugby-mad nation.
However, for the SA Super Rugby franchises, the Boks’ triumph was synonymous with a massive player exodus.
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The Bulls’ star flyhalf Handre Pollard – who signed with Montpellier – headlined the exodus. He was joined at the exit door by teammates Jesse Kriel, Rudolph Snyman and Lodewyk de Jager – to name but a few.
The Sharks, Lions and Stormers were not spared the trauma – as they lost talented players like Thomas du Toit, Malcolm Marx, Albertus Smith, Damian de Allende and many more to lucrative overseas deal.
From the 32-man World Cup-winning Springbok squad, only 12 will continue to play in South Africa.
Aside from the internationals, some South African professional players leave the country well before they reach ‘high-profile’ or star status.
A research project conducted by rugby players’ organisation MyPlayers, revealed that nine in every 10 players surveyed are signing a deal to play professional rugby overseas within the next two years – or are at least considering the possibility.
What is more alarming is the fact that from the players surveyed, 87 percent considers playing for other countries if eligible.
According to MyPlayers’ research, there are loads of reasons why players seek deals overseas however the primary motivation is money.
“One Super Rugby veteran, who played in France for two years, said he earned more money in France than in the preceding seven years he had spent playing in South Africa,”
Aside from money being the No.1 driving force, South Africa’s political situation is second on the list, while transformation is fourth.
“Transformation and South Africa’s political situation were deliberately specified as two separate options to prevent interpreting the political situation as an approximation for transformation systems.
“The political situation encompasses unstable electricity supply, drought management, economic and political volatility, protests, and the exchange rate,”
Security for a life after rugby is another underlying motivation for relocation. In quite a few instances, players said they’d stay in South Africa if they were offered three to five-year contract s locally, even if it meant forfeiting earning between 10% and 20% more overseas.
Part of the security factor is the lack of communication between franchise employers and players. A number of Springboks said that, in South Africa, their franchise employers often wait until the last minute to contract them. This causes stress and tension, “and they are getting offers from Europe, which are usually for three years and give them security,”
With all these factors and the heaps of talent in South Africa, the exodus will continue to be a difficult task to combat for SA rugby.
Compiled by Leezil Hendricks
*Additional Source: MyPlayers
Please note: My Players made use of in-person interviews and online questionnaires to gather information. All data were recorded or captured anonymously to protect player privacy and to encourage truthful responses. Only senior franchise players, Springboks and Blitzboks were interviewed, while an online survey was sent to all professional rugby players in South Africa.