Welcome to the professional era! Long gone are the days when players must wait for their late thirties to move up North to get a retirement fund if you are in the Southern Hemisphere!
By: Ruggaworld’s Benedict Chanakira(BC)
Youngsters are leaving these shores at the ripe ages of 20-25 when they have had one, two or even half a good season.
Why? Has the desire to play for their countries dies?
The Blues have lost two notable stars recently a certain Charles Piutau and a Frank Saili. Both recently part of the All Black squad and well placed to be regulars in years to come. Players have a drive or impetus to get financial security, getting more game time or looking for a new adventure. Is this all acceptable? Of course it is.
The game is believed to be getting tougher, yet the officiating makes that statement null with players getting penalized for tough ruck challenges and the lot! An injury could cut a career short and its better the players’ cash in now, instead of later.
Careers are getting shorter, whilst offers are getting bigger with Piutau in particular set to earn in the region of $2 million for the two year deal. For Piutau that’s a two year absence from the All Blacks. The New Zealanders, English and Australians are known for their failure to adopt the change in the game by selecting players that ply their trade abroad.
To some extent they are right as you need to show your hunger to don that jersey. New Zealand has managed to vindicate their decision as they continue to be the benchmark in World Rugby.
The powerful TV deal in the Northern hemisphere has seen absorbent salaries become a norm. The French national side in particular is suffering from the influx of foreigners. The money is a very powerful luring tool.
Loyalty? Passion? Walk in the players’ shoes for a moment. You are getting offered the same job, a new challenge in different environments, with better hours and a much higher salary. Which employee would decline such an offer? In South Africa in particular the fall of the rand makes a strong case to pack your bags and leave. Some players are not in contention for the Springboks, Wallabies or even All Blacks. So why would you stay around?
Of course the missing your family, friends and culture would be a factor that could affect your choice but it has not fettered the average player. Who would have thought a player would leave Super Rugby for the Japanese league?
I spoke to a player who was on the fringes of All Black selection, but decided to move north a few years ago. He grew up in a poverty stricken environment and the opportunity to secure security for his family was stronger than the desire to play for the All Blacks or a lifelong dream to be a Super Rugby legend!
The question is; what if the All Blacks selected players abroad? Or what if Australia did the same? They would have players with better all round skills especially their scrimmaging prowess but also they would see a huge player drain in their country (already evident).
An interesting image- Post 2011 I believe highlighted the numbers in World Rugby and it would tell you this! Well it told me this- South Africa should be the one to ignore professionalism and maintain a stance similar to Australia and New Zealand. They have the numbers and it would make their sides stronger.
New Zealand and Australia will need to adopt the professional model soon or face a death to their local game especially Australia! These two however benefit from Fiji and Samoa’s player influx into their countries. In fact players all over the world have taken up the option of adopting a country and playing for it through being nationalised.
While many fans frown over these ‘mixed breeds’ ; it is the new way forward. Using, the so called residency rule. Some notable players include; Tendai Mtawarira, David Pocock, Martin Castrogiovanni and Mike Catt to mention a few. Numbers balance in their own special way. In fact this law has given the power to the player and wealthy nations have taken advantage. Go see how many New Zealanders are in the Japan squad!
Have a look at the image from 2011 and see how the player numbers don’t tell the same story as the rankings. The numbers have not changed much since 2011 as well!
Is South Africa just wasteful?
Are Wales that resourceful?
So New Zealand is really that good?
Are these just numbers that don’t tell the real story? What do you think?