Part 1 – John Smit, Percy Montgomery, Victor Matfield … they are examples of hugely respected Springboks who were able to sustain their top-flight playing careers for periods of a decade or even significantly more.
By: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
But over-exposure of the country’s current crop of leading internationals means their spells in the game will be significantly curtailed, fears SARU CEO Jurie Roux.
In a wide-ranging interview with Sport24 this week, Roux said of the central contracting of their All Black assets by the New Zealand Rugby Union, for example: “It’s a no-brainer; it gives them an advantage … it will probably (keep) New Zealand No 1 until we get it right.
“People talk about the future shape of SANZAR competition, the conference system (in Super Rugby) and everything else, but our biggest issue at the moment is the welfare of the players in terms of playing too many games.
“New Zealand is able to address that by pulling their players from certain games and even certain competitions when it’s felt necessary – not in bulk, but for very specific individuals, and managing them through that process in conjunction with their franchises.
“It’s important to note in New Zealand – and here there is perhaps a misconception – that it is not a blanket model; there’s very strict arrangement with the franchises over amount of time players are fielded for and when.
“It is very much a co-operative model with the franchises but I’ve got no doubt it gives them an advantage: they can take Richie (McCaw) out of the system for six months, give him a rest and filter him back.
“We currently play our national captain (Jean de Villiers) every single Test match, each and every Super Rugby match … it would be great if we could rest him just for three or four weeks.
“But his primary employer is Western Province; we’re the secondary employer, an add-on.”
Roux said the situation in South Africa could only change after 2015.
“We only get that opportunity again in 2016 when the current collective agreement runs out, and current agreement with SARPA (the South African Rugby Players Association).
“We’ll need a quantum leap in money, because that’s the biggest issue. You need to be able to offer them exactly what they’re getting between the union, SA Rugby and all the additional revenue, which will be a quantum leap.
“Without managing the players, we’re never again going to see the (long-serving) likes of John Smit, Victor, Bakkies (Botha), Jean again … because careers will be over by 25, instead of guys being able to play top-level rugby well beyond that.
“The youngsters coming through at the moment – people like Eben Etzebeth come to mind – are being overplayed and nobody’s directly to blame; that’s just the current system in South Africa.
“It’s one in which the players carry some fault as well: they’ve got a vote on whether they want central contracting or not. It’s a tough nut to crack, but hopefully we’ll do so in 2016.”