Outgoing Lions president Kevin de Klerk says one of the foremost challenges facing South African rugby revolves around financial constraints, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
At a presentation to the Portfolio Committee of Sport and Recreation in parliament on Tuesday, SA Rugby reported a net loss of R33-million in 2017. Furthermore, in total, the SA Rugby Group that serves to promote, develop and support all levels of rugby in South Africa suffered a loss of R62-million.
One of the proposals to begin reversing such losses involves a plan to significantly reduce the size of the professional player pool in South African rugby.
When chatting to the media in Johannesburg on Wednesday after announcing his retirement, De Klerk spoke about the challenges that he knows only too well.
‘Coming back to budgetary constraints, you have to see what will make the budget work. Compared to most countries, we produce the most players and have great youngsters coming through, but the fact remains that economic constraints don’t make it easy to retain players and build squads bigger than 45 professional players at the top there.’
It’s a subject that SA Rugby president Mark Alexander has analysed at length, and at the recent launch of the 2018-19 Pro14 season, he highlighted the benefits of playing in such a northern hemisphere competition.
De Klerk said there were certainly some advantages for South African teams to make the move north, but reiterated the need for it to make financial sense.
‘Ultimately, it will all depend on whether it works financially. It can be great exposure for teams to go overseas and play European clubs, I don’t doubt that, and it seems to have benefited their game substantially. However, the financial model also has to work, and I’m not sure if it is at this stage.’
Speaking more broadly, De Klerk said he remained confident that SA Rugby was enforcing the necessary plans to ensure the game heads in the right direction.
‘I sat with Mark last week, and he took me through a video that explained the vision and the plan, and all the measures being put in place. I was most impressed, and I think they mean business. With Rassie [Erasmus] at the helm, I also think things will come right.
‘We’re in a tough economic climate; sponsors are tough to come by, and SA Rugby has a budget they need to meet and lots of unions to cater for, but I think they’re doing the best they can.’
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images