SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux admits it is becoming increasingly difficult to compete on an international level as a result of the player exodus.
In an interview with Rugby World magazine, Roux highlighted the challenges facing South African rugby due to the ever-increasing player drain.
‘Last year we had 373 players playing in European club competitions. Any other country that loses that amount of players cannot compete on a national level. Take 373 players out of New Zealand, Australia, England, Ireland, France – see if they compete. It would be tough. We have the proof.’
Just this year alone, SA Rugby bid farewell to talented players such as Cobus Reinach, Ruan Ackermann, Faf de Klerk, Cheslin Kolbe and Jan Serfontein, and Roux admitted it was a major concern to see more and more youngsters heading abroad.
‘They are becoming younger. People are coming to our youth weeks, our Craven Weeks – our U18 aspirational tournaments. They are recruiting them at U18. The list [of talent leaving] is getting longer.’
Another factor in South African rugby is the role of player agents, who understandably have to look out for their clients, but at times find themselves at loggerheads with the national body.
There have also been calls for tighter regulations to reign in ‘rogue agents’, while James Adams of In Touch Sports told Rugby World magazine that more needs to be done in terms of communication between SA Rugby, the Springboks, provincial unions and agents.
‘There are a handful of companies in South Africa that control 80-90% of the market force. As the Agents Board, we are trying to regulate our industry, but there are certain individuals that seem hell-bent on holding back necessary regulation changes. The unnecessary red tape needs to be addressed ASAP.
‘As a result we are reaching a stage now where if it [legislation change] doesn’t happen by the end of this year, we are all about to split from Saru’s Agents Association and disband. Should this happen we are just going to move every player we can abroad. We have all had enough. Why must we support provincial unions who go and work with unaccredited agents?
‘Why must we keep helping South African rugby, yet we don’t get the support needed to change the regulations for the better of the industry? Why must we keep players in South Africa? Discussions have been going on for two years with very little headway made.
‘If things don’t change soon, we will be seeing an exodus of players on a larger scale than ever experienced before. If changes are not made, I for one have no interest in keeping players in South Africa. If a player can earn double or triple overseas and wants to set up a future for his family and obtain an EU passport, how can I not support such a player’s wishes?’
Photo: Anne Laing