Sharks chief operations officer Eduard Coetzee says SA Rugby must do more to keep players like Cobus Reinach in the country, by Darryn Pollock
The Springbok scrumhalf was approached by Northampton and was open and transparent with his union about the offer. He was looking for any reason to stay. The Sharks, and Coetzee, then approached SA Rugby in order to try and match the offer from Northampton, but their reaction was too slow.
“I wish SA Rugby had come on board in our negotiations with Cobus four-weeks earlier” Coetzee added. “Cobus wanted to stay, he just wanted some reassurance that there was a plan for him within SA Rugby, but he didn’t know where he stood.”
Reinach had not heard from SA Rugby, or a national coach, before this offer hit his desk since he was omitted from the 2015 World Cup squad. He was uncertain as to where his future lay with the Boks.
“They should have just picked up the phone and reassured Cobus,” said Coetzee. “They spoke a lot about how important he was to their cause to me, but not to Cobus, they also said they would try and help match his overseas offer, but they were too late.”
Eventually, an email came across Coetzee’s inbox saying that SA Rugby would match the offer in order for him to stay at the Sharks, but it had been two weeks since Reinach had signed – under pressure – for Northampton.
“It is a tri-party contract, and SA Rugby need to come to the party a little more, we cannot keep these major players with what we can offer alone. SA Rugby needs to be proactive.”
To be fair to the national body, and especially to new SA Rugby President Mark Alexander, he flew down to meet with Reinach – this was after he had signed however – as well as Pat Lambie who was also offered a massive contract from Northampton.
Alexander was able to convince Lambie to stay, by showing interest and intent with the player, but his actions were too late to save Reinach. Additionally, Lambie is a very honourable man and was not happy to break his three-year contract with the Sharks and SA Rugby.
Sharks CEO, Gary Teichmann, shares in these frustrations, but knows that SA Rugby has their own hands tied by a framework and constitution that does not fit the modern era.
“The constitution that governs rugby in South Africa does not allow for commercial success, it is still based around an amateur structure,” Teichmann said.
“There are too many so-called professional players in this country that the funds need to be divided between. In South Africa we have probably triple the number of professionals who are getting paid, in comparison with New Zealand.”
The constitution and framework of representatives won’t change anytime soon warns Teichmann, and as such, money making ideas like making franchises 74% shareholdings will struggle as investors won’t agree to be governed by a council of representatives.
Factors such as these are holding SARU back from becoming a spending force in keeping their own players, says Teichmann, as their funds are being spread across the board rather than concentrated on bulking up important Bok contracts.
However, besides the uncontrollable aspects, Teichmann is also looking for SARU to be more proactive where they can.
Reinach’s decision to leave throws light onto the failings of SARU that Teichmann believes they need to be answerable for.
“When Cobus was negotiating his contract, he did not even know who the Bok coach was going to be. How can he make an informed decision on his future if SA Rugby don’t even know their own direction? SARU need to make the hard decisions, especially about overseas Boks,” Teichmann added.
“At the moment, SARU can be more proactive even with the limitations on them from their framework.
“They can be more professional with their approach to the players that they see in their plans, and sell the Springbok dream, which seems to be waning at the moment.”
SA Rugby has the ability to hold onto some key players, but they are simply not doing enough. Funds are one aspect, and that needs to be addressed, but being assertive, making decisions about the future of overseas based Boks, and an understanding of the Springboks vision and objectives, all of which are achievable.
“We need it to be a combined approached,” Coetzee concluded. “We have a certain ceiling we can meet, but we need SA Rugby to come to the party to keep these guys.”