Retiring loose forward Francois Louw has offered his views on how much concern there is for the game among his fellow rugby players.
It is unlikely that Louw will tie up his laces one more time for Bath. He retires when his contract runs out next month and has shared his candid views on how players are able to disguise their emotions on and off the park.
‘Rugby players are masters of disguise,’ he told the Daily Mail.
‘In the heat of the moment when you’re looking someone square in the eyes, there’s no emotion, but inside you’re screaming with pain and fatigue. It’s something you have to master and players do it off the field, too.
‘There is concern,’ said Louw, 34.
‘What happens to any industry if this continues for six months? They’re talking about opening up the schools next month but if the R-rate goes up, then do we go back to full lockdown again? The hospitality industry is getting pushed out, those businesses could go under completely and there’s mountains of debt building up. How’s that going to be repaid? Tax is the ultimate but to what end?’
The Springboks World Cup-winner’s family back home have been affected in the badly-hit tourism sector.
‘In South Africa the stringent lockdown on businesses is forcing more unemployment, with the majority of South Africans living hand to mouth; it is scary,’ said Louw.
‘Lots of charities are jumping up to feed the hungry and poor but no one is sure where it’s all headed. My family run a guest house called Les Baleines in Hermanus outside Cape Town, but the tourism industry has gone from hero to zero – a complete shutdown. It’s mostly Britons who visit and that has come to a complete halt.
‘Questions are being asked about next year’s Lions tour. South Africa cancelled the Tests in their winter which will have a major financial impact, as it will in the UK. Here, the amount of people who have approached the government for the universal grant is the highest it has been.
‘They’re talking like the post-war era in terms of the effect on the economy.’
In a SA Rugby magazine exclusive, he revealed his post-rugby move will be to assist young athletes with regard to their financial well-being.
‘Players will need sound advice about how to get through this. Having been a professional sportsman I can empathise. I understand what goes through their minds, especially from a young age and starting to earn good money. No one can make decisions until you’re told how to. Too many athletes retire in a bad financial state considering the opportunities they had in their career.
‘There are talks of permanent 25% salary reductions in the Premiership, some clubs are calling for 50%. Stephen Lansdown at Bristol is the only one saying it should never happen. Good on him, but if you understand a club’s cash flow you see they’re bleeding on a daily basis.
‘It then gets put on to the players. From a player’s perspective, you want full pay but there is context.
‘Clubs are bleeding money. That’s not a secret. The majority of money comes through ticket sales, sponsors and BT TV rights. Clubs are having to pay back TV money and season-ticket holders through the Consumer Rights Protection Act. That’s money that suddenly isn’t there but wage bills and expenses still are.’