Weak rand ‘kills SA rugby’

September 20, 2013
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5107ae48e33941dfbb4af3b762a66a09Part 3 - The South African Rugby Union (SARU) has lifted the lid on the extreme difficulty of combating the exodus of players – these days younger ones as well from our shores because of the vulnerability of our currency.

By: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

“It kills us,” SARU CEO Jurie Roux told Sport24 in a multi-pronged interview this week, when asked about the effect of the rand weakening fairly rapidly from, for instance, an exchange rate of 11 to the Euro to well over 13 this year.

“The market value on that (European) side doesn’t change … so a tighthead prop is worth £800 000; that’s what he is worth over there.

“So it’s attractive, and then it suddenly becomes 30% even more attractive to a South African.

“And in Japan with the Yen, it’s corporates who are (driving signings), corporates with big money.

“It definitely has an effect, and what can you do about it?

“Not a lot.”

But there is also, possibly, a brighter side: Roux suspects the French club relish for snapping up big-name players from elsewhere may not be a sustainable model.

“It’s quite possibly going to end up hurting the French.

“When you’ve got Toulon (increasingly weighted with South African players) playing Toulouse, there’s 46 players on display across the two match-day squads, and maybe only 14 will actually be French.

“Then you’re going to struggle when you need to pick your national side.

“It’s like the English Premiership in soccer: the lack of English players is hurting their national team’s ability to be really (strong).

“It is depleted because lots of the players are only substitutes or fringe players at their own clubs, or even playing in the next league down.

“My real hope is that the French start thinking ‘listen here, we’ve got to start limiting these numbers’ within their Top 14 competition.

“But there just seems a bottomless pit of money there, as if they’re plucking it off trees.”

Roux says people have to consider more than just the appeal of the foreign currency when they lament South African players leaving for Europe or Japan.

“More than half the time, I’d say, the individuals are not quitting here just because of money.

“They are saying to themselves: ‘I just want a different experience for three years. I don’t want to play as much rugby. I can earn a lot of money, yes, but come back in three years and still be (young enough in many cases) to carry on locally where I left off’.

“There’s also the case of guys like (Ireland-based) CJ Stander: a really good player, but not too long ago he was No 4 down the line of Bulls loose forwards.

“So he seeks another opportunity, and with a bit of luck he filters back into our system, or with bad luck you find him running out for Ireland eventually.

“It is a worry: we do lose too many young guys these days.

“My biggest concern is if we start losing too many aged 18 and 19 … going to Australia and elsewhere.

“That’s with a completely different aim in mind: saying goodbye and probably trying to qualify for the country they move to, because they don’t want to play (SA) U20 so they don’t get ‘captured’ under IRB regulations.

“That kind of scenario aggravates us a bit, because there’s a gentlemen’s agreement between (the SANZAR countries) that we don’t poach each others’ players.

“Still, think of a union like WP fairly recently – they had three frontline centres in Jean (de Villiers), Jaque Fourie and Juan de Jongh, then a couple of guys in waiting.

“So how many young centres beyond that group can you really expect to keep?

“Can you be blamed if your sixth, seventh or even 10th-choice midfielder opts to go somewhere else?”

Roux also sees certain advantages to the fluidity in player migration.

“If Francois Louw hadn’t gone to Bath, Siya Kolisi would not have played Super Rugby yet, so wouldn’t be playing Test rugby for South Africa now.

“Remember a world-class player like JP Pietersen will be back in 2015, and look how Fourie du Preez came back (into the Springbok picture) – he was in better shape than he’d ever been in the last two years he played for us.

“He’s rested, he’s sharp, mentally in a different place.

“He’s had a great cultural experience in Japan; his whole family has.”

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11 Comments

  1. avatar Brendon says:
    September 20th, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    Say Jurie why dont you guys start to market the game properly ; develop competitions people actually want to travel to watch? European clubs generate a lot more cash into their games by having people pay proper money to pay for a sought after experience.

    We lose millions of rands out of our game due to the laziness of SARU to market the game. Once they get their TV money they all sit back and chew from the fat of the land – yet had they not neglected live rugby we would generate money from many other revenue streams.

    And Jurie – the English soccer team, despite being not too flash – still generate a gazillion more pounds a year than Springbok rugby because its league is so strong.

    How many people were keen to buy Bok rugby tickets and merchandise when our teams dominated Super Rugby? Similarly if Liverpool and Man U both make the Champions League emi finals playing with maybe 5 English players between them – this drives excitement around English football and ultimately the English national team – not matter if they suck or not.

  2. avatar biltongbek says:
    September 20th, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    I think it is simple.

    You pay what you can afford, and reward those who stay with a springbok jersey.

    ensure everything is done to earn the maximum money out of ticketing, merchandising and sponsorships.

    Look abroad like NZ did with AIG if necessary.

    Perhaps central contracting of a core of players should be considered, let’s say those at Super Rugby level up.

    At the end of the day we can only pay what we can afford.

  3. avatar Brendon says:
    September 20th, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    @biltongbek:

    But the more money we make the more we can afford.

    Currently we care only about Supersport as a revenue stream. SARU cares fokol if only 5000 people pitch up to watch a Curie Cup game in Bloem

  4. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    September 20th, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    Whilst Forex definitely makes a marked difference… it is not the reason SARU cannot afford to keep their top players in the country!

    SARU revenues are only slightly behind Australia and NZ… yet they’re not having the same issues as they don’t select OS players…

    SARU has too many money-bleeding competitions not too mention RSA style corporate governance… increasing executive council bonuses/wages by 140% when there was a 70% decrease in net profit is hardly smart (well if you’re not one of them)…

    If they cut leaching comps like the Vodacom Cup and restructured both divisions of CC and were smarter with Super Rugby they’d instantly be able to contract their 30 best players (as they are now permitted)…

    Shortening seasons would also allow players to ‘moon-light’ OS for some extra cash/experiences…

    Cost of living/ Salaries also need to be taken into account… the average wage in Australia might be around R1m but you sure as shit cannot buy any half-decent 3 bed house in any inner city burb for less than R5m and that extends down to most expenses…

    Nah… they just don’t box smart… and allowing players to represent the Boks whilst being OS is just going to fuel to desertion and effect quality of the very comps that feed the current crop of superstars…

  5. avatar biltongbek says:
    September 20th, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    @bryce_in_oz: We’ve have been lamenting the administration of south African rugby for some time now.

  6. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    September 20th, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    @biltongbek:

    Aussies are almost as bad in governance and ludicrous bonus’… yet they do have the nouse to earn serious dosh via marketing… their merchandise and test revenues (85% of their total revenue)…

    SARU should have no excuses… or should be held accountable for them…

  7. avatar Brendon says:
    September 20th, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    @bryce_in_oz:

    I have long said that no proper business model would allow these Vodacom Cup, Under 21 etc comps to live while they dont generate their own income.

    How many players can we contract per year just on the flight expenses of under 21 players alone?

    Yes development is important but there has to be different way than to play these competitions to empty stadiums.

  8. avatar biltongbek says:
    September 20th, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    @bryce_in_oz: The members of SARU is a protected species, their cajoling to remain in positions and the manner in which there is little to no transparency makes it very tough to factually criticise them.

    Most of the time we complain, lament and criticise, it all comes to naught.

  9. avatar Brendon says:
    September 20th, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Imagine as a businessman I can sell my small-town club player on to a franchise and earn a cool R100 000 for doing so.

    Wont club rugby then become real businesses with real assets that are developed and traded?

    This will mean big unions dont have to develop players from under 19/21/Vodacom level.

    Just to think what Platteland clubs can charge for raising and developing these monster props that they then sell off to franchises? And franchises in turn just play big games to sold out stadiums and on TV.

  10. avatar Brendon says:
    September 20th, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    In fact if a wealthy businessman tomorrow goes and buys every tight head prop in SA playing at schools level with the promise of paying the player a salary of R30 000 a month until he gets a contract – you can turn the game on its head.

    Imagine all the unions in SA suddenly not having a single tight head prop!

    Suddenly the checque books come out and before you know it the game is properly professional

    :-)

  11. avatar Timeo says:
    September 21st, 2013 at 12:55 am

    @Brendon:

    Nothing good can result from treating people as if they are property.

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