Player agents not ‘chasing money’

Player agent Gert van der Merwe insists that it is not their intention to push for talented locally-based players to take up offers abroad, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

The role that agents play in the increasing exodus of players heading overseas has come under the spotlight recently, with Boks such as Jan Serfontein and Cobus Reinach set to further their careers outside of South Africa.

In a recent column for The Times, Bok assistant coach Brendan Venter hit out at certain agents for not doing more to keep players in South Africa, while suggesting that they stood to earn higher commission should their clients take up overseas offers.

‘Bok supporters are justifiably desperate to see the team's results getting better,’ Venter wrote. ‘So, it is a real pity that there are agents in South Africa who don't care about our rugby – who are more concerned with lining their pockets.’

However, Van der Merwe – who has represented overseas-based Boks such as Francois Hougaard and Vincent Koch – told that this was far from the truth.

‘I understand Brendan’s frustration, and that of other coaches, when some of the top local players take up offers overseas. Obviously they want to have access to the best players and to be able to compete against the top teams. But I think what needs to be understood is that player agents are ultimately creatures of statute. We are not pushing for our players to head overseas, but when they come to us to say that they would like to consider options abroad, it is our job to look into fulfilling those wishes.’

Although agents can only take commission on players' earnings at club level, and not at national team level, Van der Merwe insisted this was not a factor leading agents to push for their clients to rather accept an overseas offer as opposed to the likes of a SA Rugby tripartite deal.

‘It’s really not a case of chasing the money. What also needs to be taken into account is that when it comes to certain overseas clubs such as in France, you often have to use an agent over there to complete the deal, and so even if it’s a case of earning more, you then have to split the commission by two. Sometimes you can also battle to get payments from overseas, so I can honestly say I’ve often found it more beneficial for a player to be based locally.’

One of the other factors that Venter took issue with was seeing young players in their prime, who had been identified for future honours, leaving local shores.

Van der Merwe suggested there were often a variety of contributing factors taken into consideration when younger players took up overseas offers.

‘It is a time when there is some uncertainty around the state of SA rugby, and also the state of affairs in South Africa as a country. In this regard, an overseas offer often just provides the sort of security and stability that is attractive. In addition, there is so much talent in South Africa, and sometimes not every player can be accommodated within local shores, but there may be an opportunity for them to further their careers at an overseas club. At the end of the day, as agents, we can’t stand in the way of a player or force them to stay in South Africa against their wishes. We also have a job to do.’

Photo: English Premiership

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Craig Lewis