Cheslin Kolbe’s big-money move to Toulon should be welcomed as a massive boost for rugby, writes former Springbok STEFAN TERBLANCHE.
With the Currie Cup done and dusted, and the newly-devised United Rugby Championship Championship having now kicked off, it feels like us rugby supporters are back in the swing of things, even though we not allowed near a stadium in South Africa just yet.
As a former player, I still can’t comprehend playing in an empty stadium with no fans and supporters present, but what’s even worse is playing no rugby at all. So I guess the players, broadcasters, administrators, sponsors and fans are counting their blessings and taking what they can get.
Rugby players and fans always try and compare themselves to football as a point of reference and even though the two games are played in a team format they are world’s apart. Footballers earn exorbitant amounts of money and are regularly criticised for doing so.
The questions are often asked as to how could a player possibly earn millions each week, and why rugby players can’t earn the same.
Cristiano Ronaldo is a good case study and his move from Real Madrid to Juventus proved why they can demand these huge sums of money. Rumours surfaced that Juventus sold 520 000 jerseys in just 24 hours bearing the Portuguese striker’s name.
That’s correct, over half-a-million jerseys in just one day!
I would be very surprised if any rugby franchise in the world sells 10% of that amount in a year. International teams are different but we can rest assured that they won’t sell the same numbers of shirts in a year that Juventus sold in just one day.
Let’s now compare Ronaldo to the best player on the planet over the last 18 months, and that’s our very own Cheslin Kolbe. Few would argue against the fact that he has set the world alight since the Rugby World Cup in 2019, and that he has been outstanding for his club in France, Toulouse, winning not only the French Top 14 but also the Champions Cup with them.
It was recently announced that Kolbe will make the move across France to big-spending Toulon and that he will reported be in line to bank a whopping €1m (R17,5m). Don’t get me wrong, nearly R18-million a year is a massive amount of money, but for what he is putting on display and what he is doing for rugby, he should be earning double that.
Many said that rugby should not be a professional sport and that the values and ethos it stands for is very much that of an amateur sport. How you approach and how you reason in this regard is up to you and many might agree. The state of affairs is simple and to the fact, though. Rugby is a professional sport, players are getting paid to play and many will make a living out of rugby.
We have to ask ourselves the question of why we are so far off the pace with regards to the financial rewards tied up in football. One reason might be the fact that football’s been a professional sport longer than rugby, while it also has a much bigger global reach, and is played and watched by many more participants than rugby.
However, push all that aside, and I think it is time for rugby to take an even more professional approach and really start pushing the envelope in further global reach and appeal.
There are many more Kolbes in South Africa ready to be unearthed. Players like him should be earning much more and administrators, supporters and ex-players alike should stop complaining about his salary.
The more the best players earn, and the more the world becomes aware of these cases, the more money will be invested in the game, and the more will ultimately filter down to grassroots.
Currently rugby people are the game’s own worst enemy and we should make sure that we fight these people first before we fight against big salaries for world-class players like Kolbe.