Springbok flanker Jaco Kriel has admitted he signed for Gloucesterthis season to beat what he predicts will be a flood of players looking for lucrative deals in Europe after next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Kriel told RugbyPass he believes by moving to England now, he is ahead of the contract game and predicts a deluge of top South Africatalent will follow his lead thanks to the weakness of the country’s Rand against the Pound and the Euro.
The recalls of Sale scrumhalf Faf de Klerk and Wasps fullback Willie le Roux to the Springbok squad from their European clubs is another incentive to move as test careers are no longer halted by signing an overseas contract.
The warning from Kriel, 29, comes as reports emerge that the South African Rugby Union (SARU) is on the verge of financial collapse after recording a net loss of R62 million last year while the Australian RU posted losses of $Aus3.8 million last year. It is against this worrying financial picture that the leading players from those countries will make their decisions about future contracts after next year’s World Cup.
The 11 times capped former Lions backrow forward said: “I looked at whole situation and my own career and made the decision to come before the World Cup because I believe that after the Cup tournament in Japan everybody is going to want to come to the UK or France.
“The market will be flooded and you will be competing against New Zealand, Australian and also players from the Pacific Islands for contracts. I got the opportunity to come now and I took it.
“You are playing professional rugby for the love of the game and also to ensure you can look after yourself when you retire from rugby. At the moment the Rand cannot compete with the Pound and that is a huge factor and if they are interested then a player will get in touch with his agent. It remains a personal preference where you want to play your rugby and if there is family you don’t want to leave is another factor in your decision making.
“The quality is improving all the time in England and teams want to play an attractive style of rugby and that is helping players make their decision and if you look at the Boks test series with England in June then Faf and Willie were the stand-out players.
“The fact that Faf and Willie have been able to play in England and come back to play for the Springbok is not a good message for South Africa because it shows that you can come here, have great fun, enjoy your rugby and still play test rugby. It means the last hold that teams backs home in South Africa, who want to keep their best players, had was the fact they couldn’t continue playing for the Boks.
“Now that rule has gone I really believe the guys wants to come over to Europe because everyone who comes here then, when they go back, talks about how amazing it is – except for the weather!
“If you look at the quality of the players in the Premiership then you can see there won’t be any easy games. You need a squad that ensures you are competitive in every game to keep you up there. To be able to be competitive in the Premiership and also the European competitions you need to have enough players for two teams.”