BRENDAN VENTER: This move will solve an important Springbok riddle
'It’s too simplistic to say that New Zealand and England are the most dominant rugby nations because they select exclusively from home-based players'
SA Rugby's 30-cap overseas-based player policy, which will take effect from July 1, has drawn a barrage of criticism.
Naysayers have suggested SA Rugby should have been more decisive in approach and instituted a blanket ban on foreign-based players in line with New Zealand and England, the top two nations in world rugby, who choose not to use overseas-based players.
Last year I asserted that SA Rugby shouldn’t select foreign-based players because there are a limited number of these players who will contribute to South African rugby moving forward.
However, I’m now of the view that a blanket ban would not represent an ideal solution for South African rugby because the national team is currently in a transitionary phase. So, we need to keep our options open and build the most competitive unit from players based locally and abroad.
It’s too simplistic to say that New Zealand and England are the most dominant rugby nations because they select exclusively from home-based players.
It’s not a case of one size fits all and we need to devise South African solutions to South African problems. England, for example, do not face the struggle of competing with richer currencies so they are able to hold on to top players.
New Zealand contract players centrally, which affords them complete autonomy.
The 30-cap policy shouldn’t be shot down because it’s going to serve a purpose. Although it’s impossible to completely stem the player drain caused by the weak rand value and other factors which exist, I foresee the impending rule discouraging young stars from leaving South Africa and encouraging others to come back to the country to experience what the Springbok environment is like going forward.
The 25-year-old Steven Kitshoff serves as a case in point. The former SA under-20 prop, who has won 10 Test caps for his country, is set to return home at the conclusion of the current European season having been offered a national contract after two seasons in France.
While the imminent return of Kitshoff is a fillip for South African rugby, the loss of Cobus Reinach, 27, at the close of the Super rugby season is a body blow to club and country.
I know the Sharks have been critical of SA Rugby and have questioned the governing body’s professionalism and level of communication.
However, it’s utterly nonsensical to lay the blame for Reinach’s defection squarely at SA Rugby’s door because the decision to head overseas was entirely the player’s choice. I think we have reached a point at which everyone loves to blame SA Rugby. But we need to ask the question: Did Reinach genuinely want to play for South Africa?
If he did he would have surely picked up the phone and spoken to Springbok coach Allister Coetzee.
Moreover, the influence of agents is growing stronger and, generally speaking, their desire to chase commission rather than what’s best for the player is a reality today.
I would love to know if Reinach’s agent will earn the same commission when the player turns out for Northampton Saints.
We all enjoy being critics but we have to admit the 30-cap policy is a step in the right direction.
For me, this is the ideal ruling for now, because it offers SA Rugby time to assess the situation.