SA Rugby faces Bok 'feeding frenzy'
OPINION: SA Rugby and their cohorts have done their best to paint a ‘positive’ picture of the bleak landscape the game finds itself in.
However, it is more about what they are NOT saying than what they are saying that should set the alarm bells ringing.
SA Rugby, the players union MyPlayers, the South African Rugby Employers’ Organisation and the staff union Sports Employees’ Unite put forward a united front in announcing massive cuts.
In a statement, the whole kaboodle said the ‘rugby industry’ has agreed in principle to a wide-ranging plan to cut between ZAR700-million to ZAR1-billion from its budget over the next eight months.
This is ostensibly to ensure the post-COVID-19 viability of the sport through what is termed an ‘Industry Financial Impact Plan’.
“The Plan has been agreed in a united strategy formulated in discussions including representatives from all stakeholders: SA Rugby; provincial unions; players and rugby industry employees,” the SA Rugby statement said this week – when revealing the IFIP, which incorporates the Industry Salary Plan.
SA Rugby, MyPlayers, SAREO and SEU may have insinuated the players are on board and as ‘united’ as they are.
However, nothing could be further from the truth.
A substantial number of players are VERY UNHAPPY with the possibility and scale of the proposed salary cuts.
As the maxim goes: The devil is in the detail.
(Continue reading below … )
What the statement did not reveal, is that the players at the high end of the scale will be most affected – those World Cup-winning Springboks who gave their all for and bled for their country to bring South Africa glory in Yokohama in Japan last year.
Players earning approximately ZAR250,000 and less will face no salary cuts.
Above that, the sliding scale will see players lose more, the higher their profiles and earnings are.
It is believed the top end of the scale will see players lose more than 35 percent of their salary.
These cuts will be for as long as there is no rugby being played. That could be to the end of the year.
However, the BIG rider is a clause – agreed to by the players union, MyPlayers – which allows players the relatively small window of three weeks (there is a May 14 deadline) to find alternative employment abroad.
While, on the face of it, it seems ‘generous’, it is a mind-boggling clause.
Yes, if a player doesn’t like the size of his pay cut, he can walk away and go abroad.
The reality is that when this becomes public knowledge (and that will happen this week still) it could cause a proverbial ‘feeding frenzy’ on SA’s top players.
No right-minded union in the world would impose such a clause on their players.
And what makes the whole hugger-mugger deal even more menacing for domestic franchises is that they are banned from using third parties to help keep players.
The perfect example is Welsh legend Jamie Roberts, who was lured to the Stormers through a third-party deal – who generously put up the cash for the struggling franchise.
Keep in mind, all these particularities were not contained in that nicely-worded statement that suggest everybody is on board with the deal.
Let us be real.
Not all the players are happy!
In fact, several are VERY unhappy!
While the Bulls suffered most in the initial post-World Cup exodus – with the departure of players like Schalk Brits (retired), Lodewyk de Jager (to Sale Sharks), Jason Jenkins (Japan), Eli Snyman (Italy), Rudolph Snyman (Japan), Duane Vermeulen (Japan), Handré Pollard (France) and Jesse Kriel (Japan) – the new feeding frenzy could destroy an already cash-strapped franchise like the Stormers.
Players like World Cup winners Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Herschel Jantjies and Siyamthanda Kolisi will become very hot commodities.
As it is, Bok prop Wilco Louw is already heading to Harlequins in the English Premiership.
Now add in fringe players like John Schickerling, Chris van Zyl, Cobus Wiese and Jaco Coetzee and you begin to grasp the enormity of the exodus a franchise could face.
Of course, not all the players will depart.
However, the nature of the caterwauling suggests the feeding frenzy could get ugly, very soon.