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South African rugby industry agrees ground-breaking player contracting model

The South African rugby industry on Friday announced an overhauled its contracting model, hoping to improve the use of resources, greater national and provincial alignment and improved succession planning at Springbok level.

FILE: Jurie Roux, CEO of the South African Rugby Union (Saru) speaks during the unveiling of the new Springbok Jersey at a function in Cape Town, South Africa 24 April 2014. Picture: EPA/Kim Ludbrook.

CAPE TOWN - SA Rugby will no longer directly contract Springbok players, and provincial unions will cap player budgets, following an overhaul of the rugby industry’s contracting model.

The South African rugby industry on Friday announced an overhauled its contracting model, hoping to improve the use of resources, greater national and provincial alignment and improved succession planning at Springbok level.

The ground-breaking system sees SA Rugby, the rugby employers (the South African Rugby Employers’ Organisation, SAREO) and the players’ organisation (MyPlayers) cooperating for the good of rugby in South Africa.

For the first time since rugby turned professional in 1996, SA Rugby will no longer directly contract Springboks. While in a second major change, provincial unions have agreed to a cap player budgets.

“I would like to thank and congratulate SAREO, MyPlayers and Rassie Erasmus, our director of rugby, for setting aside purely sectional interest to come up with a new model that we believe will have long term benefits for all in rugby,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby.

“The existing model plainly was not working; the rugby economy could not continue to support such a large, fully professionalised workforce while the strategy to retain top players in South Africa had become too narrowly focused.

“The new model will see our best players properly looked after from a payment point of view – in the South African context – as well as from a player management and development point of view. At the same time it will improve the financial sustainability of unions by controlling budgets and sharing out the Springbok payment budget through the unions to a broader pool of players.”

“There will be challenges and growing pains I am sure, but for the first time the three constituent parties in the player journey – the players themselves, the employers and the national body – have been able to sit down, take a strategic view and come up with what we believe will lead to a more sustainable future for the game.”

Key outcomes of the agreement are:

• Joint development of players of national interest (PONI) by unions and Springbok management;
• Caps on squad size and player budgets per union;
• Identified categories for payment: professional; semi-professional and development players (21 or younger who have not been offered a professional contract); and
• And a “commitment clause” by which young players will be rewarded for longer term commitment to South Africa.

“The players fully support the model as it provides a clear career development pathway and greater certainty around contract renewals for players, while financial resources with regards to player salaries will be optimised,” said Eugene Henning, CEO of MyPlayers.

“The model is a positive development for the industry and should contribute to the long-term health of the game.”

Rassie Erasmus, SA Rugby’s Director of Rugby said the new contracting approach was designed to create a system to identify, manage and reward the best players to the benefit of the Springboks and the franchises.

“SA Rugby will identify and help nurture young talent from the schoolboy ranks and contribute to their remuneration through the unions,” said Erasmus.

“This way we will have upwards of 60 players of national interest involved in Springbok planning in an integrated plan with their contracting union.

“It broadens the Springbok pool and will work to encourage our players to remain in South Africa to pursue their Springbok dream. It also gives the national coaches the opportunity to work with the franchise coaches on honing the players’ skills on an on-going basis.”

The new model has already been agreed by SAREO members and will take effect at the start of the new contracting cycle at the end of the 2019 season.

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