• Saru to limit player exodus

    Saru has a 'secret plan' to try keep South African rugby players in the country, writes GAVIN MORTIMER for SARugbymag.co.za.

    Last Friday’s edition of Midi Olympique, the twice weekly French rugby newspaper, had a warning for South Africa’s top players thinking of making the move to France. Under the heading: ‘Un Plan Secret’, the paper claimed it had it on good authority that Saru is so exasperated by the number of its top players heading to France, the UK and Japan, that it's set to take drastic and imminent action 'to limit the exodus'.

    Currently, Springboks under contract are not allowed to negotiate with a foreign club before 1 July each year, giving them a matter of weeks before the start of the European season to seal a deal. Midi Olympique claims that under the secret plans being drawn up by Saru – allegedly outlined in letters recently 'sent to Boks and their representatives' – a whole new set of regulations will be implemented from next season.

    The paper states that when the new regulations are brought in approximately 40 ‘principally young’ players will form an elite group (an increase from the current number of 20 Springbok contracts), which will be obliged to inform Saru if they have an intention to move abroad before 30 April each year. There will then be a 90-day moratorium during which time the player is forbidden from negotiating with any overseas club. These 90 days will simultaneously give Saru 'the time to prepare the best financial offer possible' to hopefully persuade the player in question to stay in South Africa and not take up an overseas contract.

    When the 90-day period expires at the end of July the player must decide whether he intends to accept the Saru offer or move overseas.

    Midi Olympique states that Saru will ensure both parties adhere to the time frame by introducing a series of potential punishments for those who transgress. Among likely sanctions are a player’s wages being frozen or his being forced to see out his South African contract to the end of its duration. Agents who are deemed to have acted inappropriately could have their licences suspended.

    Midi Olympique is sceptical, however, that the regulations will be able to stem the exodus of the country’s brightest talent to Europe and Japan. For a start, the legislation will be introduced too late to stop numerous players heading overseas at the end of this year’s World Cup. Furthermore, the paper adds, it wouldn’t be hard for players and their agents 'to still bypass [the regulations] and discreetly cultivate contacts overseas'.

    So a secret plan but not, it appears, a very secure one.

    Saru working on new contracting system

    Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images