‘Boks overworked and underpaid’

Rugby writer Liz McGregor says SA players can earn double when playing overseas.

The Springboks celebrate after scoring a try in their historic win over the Wallabies. PICTURE: SA Rugby

CAPE TOWN - Like it or not, money is an incentive for performance and South African players can earn about twice as much when playing overseas, rugby writer Liz McGregor said on Friday.

The most poorly paid Springbok, without any endorsements or bonuses, makes more than R1 million year. So why does McGregor argue that they are not earning enough?

"They [players] make incredible sacrifices and are recruited almost straight from school. They have no chance to work towards an alternate career.

"Their bodies are put under huge strain. By the time they're 45, they need knee and hip replacements which they have to pay for. Few people realise they pay their own injury insurance which costs them 9.8 percent of their gross earnings. These guys get injured all the time; they also pay their own medical aid."

McGregor says that some top rugby players who don't come from middle-class families are left destitute when they reach their mid-thirties and can't play at the highest level any more. They don't have financial skills and didn't manage their money properly.

"Salaries must be competitive globally," says McGregor. "The number of Boks now going overseas represents a crisis. We've got to look at the best they can earn overseas and we've got to match that."

Most members of Brazil's national soccer team play outside the country, yet that doesn't stop them from consistently being one of the best teams on earth. The same can also be said of other great national soccer teams. Why should this be a problem in rugby?

"Well, I look at a team like Samoa and they're really struggling. Their players play all around the world, they're used to different styles of play and they train differently. They don't have that inner team "gees" [spirit] that a team like the Springboks has."

McGregor says the South African Rugby Union (SARU) makes R700 million a year and has the money to pay the Springboks much larger salaries.

"A lot of that money is not spent in the right places. We should match what France pays - that means we should pay our top-tier players at least R8 million per year. Second-tier players should get R6 million."

McGregor also suggests the players should be given training in how to manage their money.

For a more detailed account of why McGregor believes the Springboks are overworked and underpaid, click here to listen to the podcast.