SA's rugby franchises appear to have been spared significant escapees from the 21-day window for players who wanted out of their contracts.

With the deadline passing at midnight on Wednesday, the franchises were all expecting to retain their top players‚ despite the pay cuts and uncertainty about the resumption in play due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As a desperate cost-saving measure SA Rugby and the players’ union had agreed on a mechanism to allow players a 21-day window to get out.

Despite reported interest in world player of the year Pieter-Steph du Toit‚ the Stormers are expecting their back-row star‚ as well as tighthead Frans Malherbe‚ who was also linked with a move abroad‚ to stay put.

Montpellier‚ who had reportedly made Du Toit a record offer‚ have denied making advances. In the absence of solid information to the contrary, Stormers coach John Dobson was expecting his marquee players to remain in the Cape.

Hands tied

“If a player thinks he has right up to the 13th [of May] to tell us whether he is leaving and then tries to exercise that right it would be a massive breach of rugby trust ... if a player did that he wouldn’t be leaving here with his reputation intact‚” said Dobson.

Even if a franchise learns of a player’s intention to move‚ their hands are tied as they are not allowed to make a counter-offer as they would be in breach of the cost-saving mechanisms they have all signed up to.

“The terms of the clause don’t allow us to have a conversation about money with the players‚ but we should at least be given the chance to have a conversation about where we see his future at the union‚” said Dobson.

“Rugby is meant to be a sport high on the concept of fair play and the fraternity aspect. Anyone feasting on the carcasses of entities trying to adapt to the challenges posed by this virus is going against all ethical principles.

“It’s almost like neocolonialism ... we have a nation at the bottom of Africa with certain constraints imposed on them‚ in terms of salary reductions‚ the declining rand and the like. To exploit that situation at this time of global crisis‚ when the world is meant to be pulling together‚ is a bit like picking at carrion. It goes completely against the spirit of what we need to be doing at this time.”

The Stormers have confirmed the departure of utility back Dillyn Leyds who had concluded a deal with French club La Rochelle in March. Another Springbok‚ tighthead prop Wilco Louw‚ has been given the all clear to joined Harlequins in London.

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