Though countless rumours suggested that it was imminent, I didn’t want to believe it. Then, a day or two ago, it was confirmed: Duane Vermeulen has signed a three year deal with French club Toulon.
My heart sank.
While my sadness can partly be attributed to the fact that Toulon has smashed a giant dent in WP Rugby’s Super 15 aspirations, the bigger issue is that South Africa is finding it increasingly difficult to hang on to our top talent.
Duane isn’t going to be alone up there. Bismarck and Jannie are leaving, Spies is leaving, Kitshoff is leaving, and so are many others.
They are leaving in droves.
You can’t really blame the players. Not at all.
For them, it’s an opportunity to experience a different culture, to play against some of the world’s top stars, with some of the world’s greatest coaches and to earn (as of today) 13,97 times more than they would’ve had they stayed in SA.
For young, talented players it’s tantamount to a dream job. And the best part is that while they’re over there they still have the opportunity to play for the Springboks. Sweet deal.
From a SARU/Provincial union point of view however, I’m sure there is massive cause for concern. They’d want to stop the exodus.
But what can SARU do to try and keep the players in the country? Is there anything?
Sure, they can reverse their policy of selecting overseas-based players but then they’d be creating an ultimatum between the pride of the jersey and a wad of foreign notes. Not a great message.
The other option is to pay them more, but with exchange rates being what they are that isn’t likely to work either. SARU and our local unions simply don’t have the budget.
Our ultimate enemy here is the Rand and unfortunately that is something that is totally out of SARU’s control.
My feeling is that we’ll have to ride it out for now and if, in the future, our currency is able to compete with Europe we can look at adjusting the policy.
What do you think should happen? Got a suggestion? We’d love to hear from you. Hit us with an opinionated comment or a tweet @leftbacks and let’s get the banter going.