'Unrealistic' to keep all SA talent - Roux
It is an “unrealistic expectation” to think that the South African Rugby Union can keep all its top talent in this country, Saru Chief Executive Jurie Roux told supersport.com.
After a season where both Ireland and Scotland have targeted rising talent to play in their local leagues with a view of qualifying for the country, Roux reacted to the latest spate of signings which could well see South Africans qualify for their adopted countries ahead of the 2015 World Cup.
This week former Lions captain Josh Strauss became the latest departure to Glasgow with a view of qualifying for Scotland.
Later this year, another two South Africans – former Cheetah Richardt Strauss and former WP No 8 Robbie Diack will qualify to play for Ireland and could well face the Springboks in November on their end-of-year tour.
Ireland have adopted a policy of searching out top young talent to place with Irish provinces, and who are financially assisted by the Irish Rugby Union.
Bulls flanker CJ Stander was the first such player to sign this year, and has professed to be unable to turn down the massive financial offer he was given to go to Ireland.
Other than the former SA under-20 captain, WP winger Danie Poolman has also been lured to Ireland, as has lock Quinn Roux, although the latter’s agents insist he will return to the Stormers next year to continue his development there.
There have been others, with Lion Jacobie Adriaanse and Kings lock Johan Snyman both signing for the Scarletts in Wales and former Cheetahs tighthead WP Nel currently with Edinburgh and also eyeing a qualification for Scotland later this year.
While player movement abroad is nothing new to South Africans, especially in a professional era, there is a growing concern that the Home Unions are systematically targeting young South African talent, using the lure of the Pound and Euro, as mechanisms to have them qualify for the said country.
Australia has also sent scouts to schools weeks in South Africa, and has, on a lesser level, tried to recruit young South African talent. In addition to this, former Springbok coach Jake White is currently searching for a lock to contract to the Brumbies with a view to playing for Australia in the next few years.
Despite this, Saru CEO Jurie Roux believes the danger is not as apparent and says is it unrealistic to expect a country such as South Africa to keep all its talent.
“It would be preferable to keep all players in SA but that is an unrealistic expectation as we actually have more talented players than our market can bear the cost of,” Roux told supersport.com.
“But we have also had success in our policy of keeping overseas-based players in the Springbok mix and they have returned home in due course, rather than extending overseas contracts.
"Players who do not earn selection for the Junior Springboks and go overseas may have aspirations to play international rugby for other nations but, during that qualification period, the Springbok coach would also have the option of selecting them if they were thought good enough to reach Springbok standard.”
Saru has rather opted to nominate the SA under-20 side as the “second side” – thereby ensuring that any player who plays at that level, is automatically frozen and can’t qualify for another international team.
Roux says in any case, the results of young players heading overseas have been “patchy”.
“Young players going overseas to make a career and play international rugby are not a new phenomenon and, to be fair, the results have been patchy. It’s probably the players who went to over there for a life experience and to play rugby – such as Mike Catt and Pieter de Villiers – who are the ones to have made a success of it.
“The club market will drive the movement of players and New Zealand has had some success in retaining players such as Carter and McCaw by central contracting, but it is not a ‘magic bullet’ and many, many more have taken their chances overseas, most recently Sonny Bill Williams.
"This year we have nominated the SA Under-20 team as our second ranked national team, which means those players’ futures are tied to the Springboks.”
In the end it seems we may lose some players, and some countries may well succeed when investing in South African youth.
But if Saru’s new selection structures do their job – with the same selection policies from junior to Springbok level – then that loss will be minimised, and Bok rugby continue to reap the fruits of local talent for years to come.