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Bulls guilty of hoarding


The Bulls are guilty of hoarding players to detriment of the players and the franchise, writes BRENDAN VENTER.


History has shown that whenever the Bulls have struggled to settle on an established flyhalf, long periods of failure have subsequently followed. Owing to Morné Steyn’s defection to France, the Bulls recruited Junior World Cup-winner Handré Pollard to much fanfare.

However, the Loftus outfit started the season with Louis Fouché at ten, only to discard him altogether from the match 23 since the arrival of journeyman Jacques-Louis Potgieter.

What message does the recruitment and continued selection of Potgieter send the aforementioned young flyhalves at the union? How on earth can these players entrench themselves in the side when the management team sends mixed messages and affords the pair limited game time.

Hypothetically speaking, Pollard makes an appointment and meets with Frans Ludeke. “Coach,” he says, “I was your number one choice at flyhalf in the Currie Cup but started the Super Rugby season behind Louis. Then Jacques-Louis was signed and now Johan Goosen is a rumoured target.”

He continues: “While I’ve been on the bench for the last few games, I’m not quite sure where I stand in the pecking order. Can you tell me what I need to do to realise my full potential?”

In line with the above scenario I’ve painted, the Bulls have been heavily criticised for hogging young talent. The Bulls have a history of trumping other South African unions to the signatures of star performers at Craven Week, for example.

Not too long ago, the Bulls recruited a bevy of top young centres in Francois Venter, Jan Serfontein, William Small-Smith, Dries Swanepoel and Rohan Janse van Rensburg. While all but Venter remain at some level within the Bulls setup, Serfontein is the side’s only first-team starter in Super Rugby.

Meanwhile, the Pretoria-based side, at one stage, had the pick of SA Schools’ No 8 stocks. At a point, they had all of Arno Botha, Dewald Potgieter, Gerrit-Jan van Velze and CJ Stander in their side.

Owing to the recent mass player exodus, ahead of the 2014 season, the Bulls went on a similarly extensive junior recruitment drive. The point I would like to stress is that a team hording a pantry full of players in one position has an adverse effect on the talent in question and the system at large.

The reality is that the above ferocious recruitment policy even filters as far down as primary school level. For arguments sake, the Bulls may ask a 13-year-old boy from the Boland to relocate to a high school in Pretoria, with the off-chance of one day making their senior professional side.

The current line of thinking, which I vehemently disagree with, is that if we cast our net wide enough we’ll at least find a few diamonds in the rough and hard luck to those who fail to meet our standard.

The above scenario is precisely what happened to man of the moment, Marnitz Boshoff. Boshoff was an SA Schools flyhalf who already then possessed a tidy game and solid core skills. He subsequently did his apprenticeship in Pretoria but was ultimately deemed ‘not good enough’ by the Bulls.

However, young players can learn from his example. He refused to give up and resurfaced at Griquas. His hard work and current success at the Lions bears testament to the fact that rugby coaches don’t always know best, as much as many would like to think they do.

While rugby is a professional business underpinned by revenue generation, I refuse to believe that the recruitment and talent identification process should be carried out in such a cut-throat way.

In my opinion, it equates to messing with people’s lives in the name of professional sport.

While I’ve fingered the Bulls as the chief culprits, all major unions in South Africa must for a moment stop, take stock and ask themselves: are we not guilty of the self-same issue?

Ponder this point for a moment… How would you feel if it was your teenage son in question?

Those in recruitment positions need to realise the power they yield and, in turn, must be held accountable and realise it’s wrong to regard youngsters as metaphorical pawns in their chess set.

As a coach, my philosophy is to view the person first and the rugby player second. I relish the responsibility of a mentorship role and, as a matter of fact, take more pride in the development of the person than I do the rugby player.

However, for all intents and purposes, young players are sadly seen as commodities and a survival of the fittest policy comes into effect. The moment such an environment is cultivated, competition for places becomes so stringent that individual ambition takes precedence over team camaraderie.

Should SA Rugby step in to address this issue?

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  1. I said the same thing a week ago and was shouted at. I fully agree that unions and not just the Bulls are promising youngsters the stars the moon and some sexy blonds just to leave them in the dark.

    Parents needs to make sure that these youngsters get proper agents to represent them and look at their interest and not the unions.

    But then agents are also just looking for the best deal…

    They are screwed !!!

  2. 100%

    Firstly, the Bulls cannot be bothered to find homegrown talent as they simply scout from elsewhere. Thats mistake number one.

    SA will easily field 6 Super rugby teams if we learn to develop what we have instead of always just rushing to buy the next wonderkid in school.

  3. @Cheetah Glory:

    Conveyor belt “development.” What the franchises do
    with their signings should somehow be audited and
    the signings limited – but then I suppose it goes
    against the capitalistic system, freedom of movement
    and a shitload of other shit.

  4. I’ve never been accused nor am I a commie. But capitalism & sport don’t necessarily equate to good for the game/competition.
    I remember specifically when Free Agency came to baseball & football. Even in the states leagues but for baseball – which is torture to watch – have salary caps.

    On a side note leave it to Bulls to set the pace for craven & cynical behavior. On field or off they are relentless & dastardly.
    I’m coming to the conclusion that the only thing that will stop them is The Rapture.

  5. Marnitz Boshoff is a poor example.
    If the Bulls were hoarding players he would not be playing at Lions now would he?
    The very fact that he left is evidence against him being hoarded. Same goes for JLP. Left and came back. Not hoarded.
    I’m sure the Bulls would like to be able to hoard players, but the recent exodus proves that they simply can’t afford to.

    The Sharks on the other hand…….

  6. Not to mention Steyn and du Preez and Bakkies and Kirchner and Chilliboy and Meisiekind and Jacque Potgieter and a host of others.

  7. @Timeo:

    Methinks the lady doth protest too much.
    Venter is not liked, but always has a firm base for
    what he says – and that may be the reason.

    I don’t follow your Boshoff argument. Bulls wanted him,
    did not treat him well and he swa the light an went to
    the Kwas – and from there to the Lions.

    Look at the way Dewald Potgieter was treated – a captain
    had his salary halved.
    Now they wanted and got him back. I hope he doubled his

  8. @Boertjie:

    The definition of hoarding is that one hangs onto stuff (in this case players) that one do not need. They did not hang onto him, so they could not have hoarded him.

    Your Potgieter example is the same. Letting players go when they don’t need them and getting them back when they do is exactly the opposite of hoarding.

    Perhaps, bad form, bad management, bad planning, bad luck or a lack of money but not hoarding.

  9. Hoarding is Venter’s word – I get what he is against
    is recruiting too many players in the same position
    on a trial basis,not going the route with them, in
    other words to much hiring an firing and not

    I also understand that some of the ones that were
    hoarded are still in their system, but not being
    used/trained/developed etc.

  10. @Boertjie:

    Are you sure it’s his word and not YOUR word?

    The only places it appears in the article is in the heading and the 1st line, which he clearly did not write.

    I get the point. People are upset because a few years ago, the Bulls recruited most of the most highly rated school leavers.

    They want more equity of talent, but they should also ask why all these kids chose to sign with the Bulls.
    Look at it from the point of view of the young players. WP apparently has racism issues, Freestate the Grey click, the Lions were in shambles, the small unions regularly run out of salary monies. So the bulk of them signed with the Sharks and the Bulls, and perhaps the Bulls presented a slightly more promising proposition than the Sharks.

    They had 3 SR titles and Heineke Meyer after all.

  11. I tend to disagree with the notion that it is a problem, this so called hoarding. You look for young talented players, spend loads of money on getting them young and developing them. Oviously it does not allways equate to all of them making it at senior level and all these players are free to leave should they feel that they are not treated fairly. Yet they stay….

    Why is that, maybe because they get top level conditioning and focus on developing certain skills, even though they are not in the starting 22? This is for the good of SA rugby not the detrement even if they then decide after a year or 2, to move on to other teams, that player has been developed to his full potential. Where is the problem in that?

    Look at Morne Steyn for instance, came to the Bulls as a 60% kicker, spent years with Vlok under the shadow of Derrick Hougaard and when he got the oppertunity he was the most consistent goal kicker and one of the most rounded flyhalves in the country. I definitely dont see the problem.

    To me it is all clever advertising of his skills and he targeted the Bulls as he wants a job at the top union in the country. Yep send him the application forms Bulls management, dont miss this oppertunity to get him as a consultant.

  12. Brendan almost makes it sound like these youngsters had a gun to their head when they signed the dotted line.

    All but 3 unions are not currently associated with a Super Rugby franchise. Of course some inter-provincial or union relationships in Super rugby means nothing but players, who want to look after themselves and their careers have many options to do so.

    If a player, or his agent, is too lazy or stupid to investigate circumstances within a union, or have a clear understanding and undertaking from the coach, that is their own fault.

    Instituting any type of capping systems, either through numbers, salaries or origin is not an option, players will simply flock overseas.

    Simple fact is, players exercise their personal choice when signing up for a union.

  13. @Morné: Morne we all know that it is the money that is showed in front of these youngsters and the promises that is made by the unions to them.

    Show that to any youngster and he will jump for the opportunity as we all know that at best only a few new signings happen each year as you only have 6 big guns in CC now 8 and 5 now in Supershit.

    That’s why we lose so many youngsters to overseas now.

  14. @Jacques(Bunny):

    It is a professional sport, which requires a professional attitude by everyone, especially players.

    They cannot claim ignorance.

    The question should rather be why the Bulls seem to be the union of choice for them? Money might be one reason, but I will bet my house it is not the only reason.

  15. @Morné: I believe youngster saw the family that was the Bulls and the success players had at the union and believed that is the way to get recognized quickly.

    But money and studies at Tuks is a great carrot

  16. Speaking of carots. Why is it that bunnies dont wear glasses, yet no matter how many carrots I eat, I remain blind as a bat bunny??

  17. @Morné:

    I think they should elevate the Varsity Cup into a true feeder system.
    -make the VC divisions equal by instituting a “Superbowl” final between the 2 champion teams. This will spread talent more evenly.
    -make VC strictly amateur. Scholarships only.
    -limit the age and number of years in VC to a max of 3 or 4 after school.
    -institute an annual draft by the CC and SR unions for players exiting VC.
    -Players may skip VC or leave early, but disqualify anyone who entered the draft or signed a pro contract from from going back into VC.

    The idea would be to encourage the players and their managers to develop themselves in VC for as long as possible before taking the gamble of the draft or a pro contract.

    Lastly, SA rugby should reduce the number of players with a pro contract and use the spare cash to increase their salaries.
    The goal should be to keep the best players inside SA and let the extras develop overseas. If SA salaries are high enough players could always be lured back.

    SR teams should not be in the player development business at all. It’s a drain on resources and part of the reason the SR currently serves as a development league for the French.

  18. I see flip is out injured. Massive blow just before the game this weekend. Flip has really matured as captain, or it seems that way. He has really impressed me this year and seems to be have lost the niggle and rather focus on playing clean and hard rugby.

  19. @Timeo:

    Rock and hard place bud.

    Vodacom Cup given the quotas this year is a feeder system for that.

    Pro contracts is the only way we keep guys in SA. Reduce that, you reduce your pro player pool drastically.

  20. Which means the unions with money get to keep the players…

    Bottom line… with Vodacom sponsoring they can afford to keep our players here as opposed to say the Lions with no sponsor or a team like say Valke or SWD…

  21. @Timeo:

    @ 13
    That would be a serious transgression, not?
    If you read carefully you will spot this
    “The point I would like to stress is that a team hording a pantry full of players in one position has an adverse effect on the talent in question.”

  22. @Morné:

    There-in lies the mistake.
    Trying to maintain quantity instead of improving quality. Us fans only watch the best 150 or so players. Those are the only pro contracts needed and in the ideal world it would go to the best 150 South African players. Without the burden of maintaining several hundreds of players nobody cares about on pro contracts, the salaries for numbers 1 to 150 could be higher. Which would mean that the quality of that 150 would be closer to the ideal. What’s the concern with fringe players going to France? With higher salaries inside SA, more of the worthy could be lured back.

  23. @Timeo:

    Quite simply; Depth.

    The Stormers have now lost 4 locks to injury as an example. The Bulls have a problem at loosie – ironically the Bulls could easily help the Stormers and vica-versa.

    We are again moving to the idea of central contracting – that your top professionals are contracted by SA Rugby, with union contracts simply serving as a top-up or players being loaned to unions outside of national duty (Senatla will play for WP in the Currie Cup once the Sevens world series is done, it is an agreement between SARU and WP).

  24. Morne does it not work that way already?

    SANZAR pays each union a set salary for its SR squad and the union pays what it can afford over and above that – that is what attracts the top pplayers…

    So if for instance SANZAR pays each union ZAR80K per player as salary…. the union pays each player what it can afford in accordance with pplayer ability over and above that.

    So a Bismark Du Plessis gets ZAR80K extra and a second tier replacement gets say ZAR5K above that

  25. @DavidS:

    SANZAR’s money is channelled through SARU then to the unions (and their affiliates – remember the ruckus over the Lions owing Leopards money 2 years ago?).

    That is the broadcasting money being paid out.

    What I am more referring to is the primary contracts (which is held by the unions) and the top up contracts (which is your Springbok contract).

    It should work the other way around.

    The top 50/100 players should have their primary contracts with SARU – these contracts are then supplemented by unions/franchises they represent.

    Unions might not get as much money from the SANZAR deal then (used to contract players to SARU), but they are freed from paying top dollar to premier players and can invest in up and coming talent.

    You will then have equal distribution of talent to franchises, player management, etc, etc, as this is managed by SARU, not unions.

  26. @Morné:

    If there was a limit on each team’s roster, it would not be a problem. The surplus players would be available when needed and cost nothing when not.

    There was a story in the NFL about an MVP quarterback who a year or 2 before winning the Superbowl was stacking grocery shelves and practising throwing toilet paper rolls.
    The point is, if you make the prize for the few insiders large enough, the hopefuls would finance their own development and you’d have all the depth you need at zero cost.

  27. I don’t know why you guys think all problems could be solved via central contracting.

    SARU is controlled by the 14 Unions. The majority of which are corrupt and incompetent, would never exist as professional entities on their own and do not carry responsibility for a single Bok or SR player.

    How in the world could they be trusted with complete control over top level rugby, when top level rugby never was and never will be their primary interest.

  28. @Timeo:

    The problem with the NFL theory or model is that its insular, or limited to A country. If NFL was as big in the UK or Europe do you think their system will work?

  29. @Morné:

    I think you misunderstood. I prefer the big-5 in control of the players, because rather them than the small-9 which make the majority on SARU’s board.

    And because rugby is not insular the only way to keep more of the best players in SA is to pay them more, and the only way to pay them more is to pay the next layer less.

    If someone has to play in France, I’d prefer them to be our 2nd stringers.

  30. Football… i.e. soccer… does not use centtral contracting but brutal capitalism…

    I agree with Timeo and not you Morne.

    Central contracting is also heamorraging players to Europe as much as ours is.

    New Zealand players in lower unions also suffer the same issues ours do.

    If you look at second tier France and UK sides and even Italy they are choc a bloc with Afrikaans surnames and Islander names.

    “Oosthuizen passes to Filitaotao…”

    It is surely not about taking an absolute approach… central contracting surely comes from SARU already owning 50%+1 of each franchise in SR and CC.

    We hailed the Kiwi selling shareholding off the in their SR teams in 2011. It was a model we already tried and failed wiith. Predictably it failed in NZ despite us immediately hailed the Kiwi plan as some sort of genius plan… it was something we had tried here and it had failed… the Kiwis (like with our rugby) were again copying us… and have now learned why we failed too… it was a kak idea.

    Perhaps if you want centralised bargaining the best idea is to maybe release it to SARPA or … create a professional arm like Brian Van Rooyen and Rian Oberholzer and Louis Luyt planned to keep professionalism out of the hands of amateur corrupt “officials”.

  31. We can look at many hypothetical scenarios.

    What remains is that our top unions use close to 80% of their budget for contracting players. I don’t know but I would guess close to 60% of this is on senior pro’s.

    I don’t think this is a healthy scenario for teams that surrender their top players for 4 months of the year to the national side.

    We must pump money into player resources to ensure we keep them. But we need to find a more streamlined way of doing it.

  32. |In a normal corporate environment your employee costs should be about 30% of GTO… so 80% is pushing the edge….

    We’re trying to comppete with Euros who have value far in excess of ours…

    E1 costs ZAR15 this week…

  33. @Morné:

    Why can schools/clubs in rugby not ask any union a fee for a player?

    Its absolutely bizarre for example that Grey College does not earn a mega packet every year from player sales?

    It like supplying wood for the building of a house but doing so for free – and therein lies the start of a false economy.

    I know Arsenal pays a kid out of Ghana a rather large fee, some of which goes to the kids school/club etc.

    How can this help the Bokke and the game of rugby?

  34. Basically we need more money in the system so that SARU does not have to spend so much money maintaining the entire organism of how rugby is run here.

    How do we do that? Create more products.

    We currently have only 4 great ones (boks,super rugby, CC rugby and VC)- To offset some of the above we have Vodacom Cup and Under 20 comp that costs money but does not generate anything.

    Due to lack of products there is only so much money flowing in to players pockets from Brands and sponsors – with SARU having to foot huge bill at the end of the food chain.

    The solution for me is to have our schools become a fully fledged professional entity with its own ‘product’.

  35. @Cheetah Glory:

    You have a point there.

    Personal sponsors adding to individual players’ remunerations – in turn for attending a dinner,
    which they can again sell out, etc. – is not an
    Is it practised anywhere? Football?

  36. @Cheetah Glory:

    Buying ans selling children for profit?

    I’ve heard about that. It’s what they do in the most disreputable industries.

    I’d rather they move the other way and turn all junior and VC rugby into strictly amateur.
    The 1st time a player should be paid is when he enters into a CC and SR contract.

  37. And they should tie the contracts specifically to the competition. A player with an SR contract is contracted for the SR season only. CC for the CC season only. Boks for Test matches. Outside of that they should be free to pursue whatever they want.

    Players like Kankowski, Grant and Fourie du Preez are already contracted like that. They should just formalize the system.

  38. @Morné:

    I’m rather skeptical of those percentages, but either way, it represents an opportunity.

    Lay-off everyone, but your senior pro team and use the savings to give them a 25% pay increase.
    This will lure x% of the best players back to SA, which would result in a y% increase in team quality and a x% increase in revenue, which could be used for further pay increases.

    It’s a virtuous cycle with positive feedback.

  39. @Timeo:

    “The 1st time a player should be paid is when he enters into a CC and SR contract.”

    How do you control that?

    I know for a fact Hamiltons in CT – in fear of relegation –
    got a benefactor pumpings lots of money into the club.

    Ditto for Ceres club at one stage when they were tops in
    Boland and twice beat the Maties.

  40. @Boertjie:

    Most top players are sponsored outside of the normal game. The problem is this is not limited to where they find themselves at any point in time.

    For example, if Pepsi sponsors JDV while a Bok and a Stormers player, they will continue their association if he moves to Stade… I would imagine it is like this all over the world though.


    Believe it.


    It is like regulating prostitution.

    A recognised paycheque comes with benefits, such as medical, pension, etc.

    You will never stop someone funding a club, but a pro contract should be something that is regulated and appealing that it is something every player wants.

  41. @Boertjie:

    What clubs or other entities do is really of no concern to the SR unions. The point is for the SR teams to free up cash by reducing the number of players on their books

  42. @Morné:

    I dont mean a price being paid to the player. I mean the school should be paid for developing the player.

    Our major schools are our centres of excellence or ‘academies’ as they would be called in Football.

    Yet these schools are not part of the money, and this creates a false economy. If unions had to pay schools for players you will not see as much hoarding, and you will see even better player development at schools level.

  43. @Cheetah Glory:

    Schools produce educated graduates in academics or sport. The education is not free. People pays directly or indirectly, in the form of fees or taxes or services rendered. Talented athletes, or scholars can have their fees waived because they provide the school with prestige that induce others to pay more fees or make more donations.

    The idea that schools could be paid for the athletes (or scholars) they produce would be a false economy, because it would entail double payment for the school’s services.

    Just like we would think it absurd for universities to charge industry money for the engineers or accountants they produce.

  44. That said, I think their is a profitable baseball talent developing system operating in the Dominican Republic. Agents and coaches identify kids with potential and feed and coach them for a percentage of their possible future baseball earnings.

    The contract is with the athlete, not with the team he plays for.

    I don’t think the parents would not stand for it at Grey,
    but perhaps entrepreneurial rugby coaches could get something like it going in the EC.

    The driving force behind it is the super-sized salaries of the most successful players.
    Which brings us back to my point that the biggest injection SARU and the Unions can give itself is to maintain fewer professional players, but pay them more.