Crusaders poaching SA school players – the letter


A letter from the Crusaders Academy has been circulated to schools in SA containing detailed information about a “nationwide talent identification programme”, with the first step in this process being “an all-expenses-paid training camp” for 60 under-16 players in Pretoria from July 5-10.


Players for the camp are expected to be recruited from Pretoria, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban, with Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder and several former Crusaders Test players are expected to attend the invitation-only camp.

Players would be enticed with long-term scholarship opportunities, whereafter they would graduate into the Crusaders wider training squad, with an eye on representing the New Zealand franchise in the Super 14 and ultimately the All Blacks after that.

Chief executive Hamish Riach has hotly denied allegations the Crusaders are attempting to poach South Africa’s rising rugby stars, but Sport24 was sent a copy of the exact letter that was sent out to schools and academies, and it would seem impossible to describe it as anything but a poaching mission.

The South African Rugby Union has taken enormous umbrage, and confirmed that it has approached the New Zealand Rugby Union on an official level to complain about the “horrifying” Crusaders conduct in trying to bolster their youth ranks with South African talent.

SARU said they would also inform the Minister of Sport, Makhenkesi Stofile and the chairman of the Portfolio Committee on Sport, Butana Khompela about the situation and hoped to resolve it amicably. If not, SARU would formally ask SANZAR to intervene.

Worth noting, though, is that in the comments posted on the Sport24 story last week, it became apparent that not all South Africans were against the concept, many wanting to give South Africans the choice to do with their lives, and rugby careers, what they want.

And when asked to vote on the subject on a current Sport24 vote, which saw more than 2100 votes cast, the results came in as follows:

  • 20 % were dead against it. At 16 it’s too early to know for sure a player wouldn’t make it to the top in SA
  • 27 % thought it to be a tough call. First prize would be to represent the Boks, but if opportunity knocks, it should be investigated further
  • 53 % said politics plays far too big a role in SA sport. I’d encourage any player in any sport to explore overseas option

The Letter:

17 May 2010; Dear Sir

Crusaders of New Zealand is planning a nationwide programme of talent identification in South Africa, with the goal of offering this country’s most exciting young prospects a variety of opportunities to experience the culture of New Zealand’s most successful Super Rugby franchise. A unique programme of elite performance coaching has been developed for young players in South Africa in addition to post-matric opportunities in Christchurch.

As part of the talent identification Crusaders is hosting an all expenses paid training camp in Pretoria from 5-10 July. Hosted by coach Todd Blackadder and several former Crusaders test players, the camp will feature 18 sessions of world-class conditioning and coaching presented by recognised experts and coaches. Each player will undergo an intensive physiological assessment and receive a detailed report of his results. Career advice and information will be presented by a sport agent, and the entertainment programme will include access to the FIFA World Cup and other premier events.

Entrance to the camp is by invitation only, and 60 U16 players will be chosen from across South Africa to attend – where they will compete for selection in 2011. In order to identify the group of 60, Crusaders will be hosting assessments according to the following schedule:
*Thursday, 27 May – Pretoria
*Friday, 28 May – Johannesburg
*Monday, 31 May – Bloemfontein
*Tuesday, 1 June – Cape Town
*Wednesday, 2 June – Port Elizabeth
*Thursday, 3 June – Durban

The assessments will include full anthropometric, strength and fitness testing and physiological evaluation by Players Performance Management. Attendance of the assessments is free and also by invitation only. It is our request that you identify the two best U16 players in each position at your institution and submit them for assessment. The 60 best players from around the country will be selected on the basis of their performance and travel to Pretoria in July.

Crusaders is offering a unique long-term opportunity for talented players, and I trust we will enjoy your full support in securing their future. The Sports Master from each school that contributes five or more players to the July training camp will be invited to attend and be hosted by Crusaders. Five of these masters will be selected at the end of the camp to travel to New Zealand in January with members of the management team.

Please confirm your intention to submit your players for assessment before the end of Wednesday, 19 May. Application forms and confirmation of assessment venues will be supplied upon reply, for completion and return by no later than Monday, 24 May.

Best Regards; Jacques van Heerden; Project Manager.

Facebook Comments


  1. Reply to bryce_in_oz @ 12:22 pm:

    Like I said when this issue broke in the media.

    Whats the hype all about?

    This has been going on for years.

    Now that someone actually formally invited guys and not scurry behind people’s backs it is an issue???

    If SA Rugby cannot take care of our own, there is no point in bitching if someone else wants to.

  2. As I understood, Francois Steyn was also a product of a New Zealand Rugby academy, and he came back to SA to play for the Sharks and Bokke.

    I personally think it’s great, because it’ll firstly serve world rugby well with talent that would previously be missed being developed, but it will also force SA rugby to pull up their socks ito talent retention, the playing field will be evened out more.

    New Zealand couln’t give a flying rats ass as to what colour they’d be selecting, and whoever feels he is being discriminating against will easily go.

  3. Why don’t SA Rugby publicly announce the Quotas for U/16 provincial rugby players, then every one will know why good white rugby players will JUMP for this oppertunity. I can just hope this project will continue until my boy reach the age of 16, he will do anything to, one day, play for the Crusaders AND All Blacks!!!

  4. Reply to Louis Buys @ 5:14 pm:

    after watching today’s game, wouldn’t he rather play for the bulls / Stormers AND boks?

    Why don’t you inspire him to rise above, FAR ABOVE, so far above the quota’s that they have no choice other to select him.

    How do you think Pierre Spies, Dewalt Potgieter, Heinrich Brussouw and how many other white stars have been selected?

    They took ownership of their jerseys/ positions and forced the selectors to select them in spite of quotas.