Jake: Bring in a player draft

Jake White says rugby union needs a player draft system in order for South African Super Rugby franchises to catch up to their New Zealand counterparts.

The 2007 World Cup-winning coach believes SA Rugby must embrace professionalism and implement an annual draft that would allow top players to be shared among the Super Rugby franchises.

‘The NFL has marketed the annual college draft so that it’s a successful event in itself and people all over the world tune in to see who gets picked first overall,’ White wrote in his latest AllOutRugby column. ‘Soccer has a transfer window, rugby league, pro baseball and pro football have a draft system. Rugby union has nothing.

‘Part of that is because the game is much newer to professionalism. But maybe we need to start learning from those other sports. We’ve been quite quick to learn about jumping from basketball and using wrestling techniques for our breakdown, but we haven’t taken the same lessons from other sports’ structures.

‘Rugby has been slow to turn truly professional because people are holding on, sometimes rightly, to all the old-school rugby values. But top players changing teams would be par for the course if rugby adopted a fully professional model, so we have to recognize that professionalism comes at a price.

‘We weren’t even able to fully embrace professionalism when the opportunity was presented in Super Rugby. In New Zealand, they’ll pick a guy from Auckland to play for the Crusaders, but in South Africa, we probably don’t have one guy playing for a Super Rugby team that doesn’t also play for the main province in that “franchise”.

‘We’ve got to decide whether we want rugby to be professional. If we do, then it’s time to go all in.’

Full column

Photo: John Cordes/Getty Images

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