White: We need to talk about the overseas players rule

Jake White says a discussion needs to be had over the Springboks’ overseas-based players rule after the Vodacom Bulls allowed Trevor Nyakane to take up a big-money contract with Racing 92.

Having joined the Bulls in 2015, the 32-year-old Nyakane signed an agreement with French club Racing 92, in a deal believed to be worth approximately R5 million.

Since signing from the Cheetahs, Nyakane has amassed 82 caps for the Bulls, but national duty during the Rugby Championship and the end-of-year tour has prevented him from playing for his club over the past few months.

“Trevor was never going to stay forever. That’s something we always expected, for no other reason than we couldn’t see him post another World Cup wanting to play domestic rugby,” White said on the decision to let Nyakane go.

“The timing is never ideal, but we wouldn’t have picked him anyway [for the Vodacom United Rugby Championship match against the Sharks on Friday] and we probably wouldn’t have had a lot of his services in the next two years. That’s because next year he would be involved in the Rugby Championship and in 2023 it’s all going to be about World Cup preparation.

“If you do your sums and work out a return on investment – not taking anything away from Trevor, who’s been fantastic for the Bulls, a real team guy – but sometimes it’s the right time to let a guy go.”

SA Rugby’s entry into the URC has seen the local calendar synchronised with the northern hemisphere, running from September to June. However, that has also put it in conflict with the Test calendar, as the Rugby Championship and November Tests limit the availability of Springbok players for their clubs during the start of the season.

“We need to have a discussion about what we want for our local franchise scene.

“If you’re looking after your franchise, you don’t want guys like Trevor just playing five or six games a year and you never really see them.

“Surely, if overseas clubs in England or France were in the same position, they surely wouldn’t buy those players? Looking at the Trevor model, it’s not ideal. It’s probably better for them to go overseas.”

Another factor complicating the issue is that since 2018, the Springboks have been able to select as many overseas-based players as they would like.

“What has to be looked at going forward, as a franchise coach, is overseas players being picked for South Africa. Is that going to be forever? Because it’s going to be to the detriment of franchise rugby. That’s a fact,” White added.

“We see it all over the world. We see it in Australia with the Giteau rule – where you have to have played a certain amount of Tests – and whether guys like Will Skelton should be picked.

“The Irish and New Zealand model has a strict no overseas-based players rule. I’m wearing my franchise hat here and I don’t know what the answer is. If you only get top players for five games, is it worth keeping them? I’m not so sure.

“The current return on investment doesn’t allow you the luxury of having such players on the books as well as having a salary cap in place. We’re not as adversely affected, but imagine sides like the Stormers and Sharks with all their Boks? It’s a completely different situation. I’d like to hear their views.”

Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

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Dylan Jack