English-qualified quotas are expected to be strengthened in 2024 which could directly impact the number of South African players eligible to be fielded in Premiership matches.
Under current rules, Premiership clubs are only allowed to field two foreign players in their match-day squads. However, this does not include players from South Africa, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga due to the 2003 European Union Association Agreement.
Britan’s exit from the EU had Premiership sides fearing that their South African and Pacific Island players would be reclassified as foreign players.
In a recent wide-ranging column for the Daily Mail, Rassie Erasmus said that South African rugby and the Springboks were benefiting from the current system in England, which allows the likes of Faf de Klerk and Lood de Jager to play regularly in the Premiership and earn big salaries.
“People say South Africa are stupid for allowing our players to leave. Is it stupid? Look at England, there are six or seven South African players taking the places of young English players at Premiership clubs,” Erasmus wrote.
“For us, it’s wonderful. Among about 32 players we are looking at, they’re probably earning 400-million rand that doesn’t have to come off our accounts.
“Meanwhile, back in South Africa, we have the next South African lock coming through because there is no financial incentive for players to come here.
“Is it good for England that Faf de Klerk is starting ahead of Raffi Quirke at Sale? No. Is it good for South Africa? Yes, it works for us.”
According to a report in the Guardian, the RFU has opted to keep the current temporary laws until the end of the 2023-24 season, when a new professional game agreement will come into effect.
“The decision on who can work in the UK is a matter for government. Player registration and classification rules, however, sit with the RFU and within the bounds of English law, it is the RFU’s decision to determine who is classified as a foreign or non-foreign player,” the RFU said in a statement.
“As such due to the United Kingdom no longer being a member of the European Union, the RFU is working with stakeholders to determine the position going forward with regard to the regulatory classification of foreign players.
“From summer 2024 there will be a new EQPs system and new foreign player rules. There is further work to do to agree the detail of this subject to a new Professional Game Agreement and introduction into regulation. Pending this, an interim position will exist such that players who are or would have been classified as a non-foreign prior to 1 January 2021 will retain such non-foreign classification until the end of the 2023-24 season.”
Last year, the RFU signalled their intent to make it compulsory for Premiership clubs to have at least 15 English-qualified players (EQPs) in a match-day squad, bringling England closer in alignment to France’s JIFF ruling.
“The intention is to move to a position where there is a mandatory EQPs system under which Premiership clubs must have a minimum of 15 EQPs in each match-day squad and the end of the foreign player rule to provide better England player development opportunities while giving greater flexibility for Premiership clubs to select non-EQP players of any nationality.”
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