SOUTH African Rugby Players Association CEO Piet Heymans on Wednesday urged provincial unions to be more mindful of their players’ wellbeing in an attempt to keep the top players in South Africa, as more stars are lured to Europe by lucrative contracts and good player management systems.
Heymans’s comments were made in reaction to the news that Springbok wing Bryan Habana would join big-spending French club Toulon at the end of the Super Rugby season, while Bok flyhalf Morne Steyn also looks set to head to France later this year.
Heymans said it was a blow to lose top players to overseas clubs and he thought this trend would continue, but he suggested that the provinces improve their player management systems to increase the chances of retaining the services of their top players, especially since little could be done to align the players’ salaries with the massive offers overseas.
Star Boks Bakkies Botha, Jaque Fourie, Gurthro Steenkamp and Ruan Pienaar are among several top players who have opted to head to Europe in the past few years.
"One will never be able to stop players from taking up contracts overseas, particularly because of the huge sums of money they are offered," said Heymans. "Over and above that, they are given houses and cars so their expenses are minimal.
"But another big drawcard is the professional player management systems at some of the clubs. Some of the guys based abroad are given a week off once in a while if their workload becomes too heavy, and they are encouraged to go away with their families to rest. Apart from possibly extending their careers, this model maintains their hunger for the sport and keeps them fresh."
Fortunately for Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, Heymans is confident that most of the country’s rising young stars will remain in South Africa as they look to establish themselves in the national team.
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