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No room for the weak, SARU's self created problem

Speaking to the Daily Mail again, South African Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus discussed an issue he believes the South African franchises are dealing with and one which he would like to see corrected. Erasmus essentially calling it commercial farming i.e. the mere signing of players to make up the numbers, rather than looking for quality individuals who can increase the value of the game.

Speaking at a workshop with SAREO (South African Rugby Employers Organisation), Erasmus underlined what he thought were crucial errors made when recruiting young players, an error which ultimately leads to giving them false hope of making it in the sport.

“I think we [SA] think that professional players are players who fill a team. My understanding is that it’s irresponsible to just pay a player who people don’t want to see play … other than his girlfriend, and mother and father.
He isn’t good enough to attract spectators or play in a professional competition. So why are we paying this player?
Why are there so many players? Is it because we aren’t doing our homework before we sign them? Here, I include myself. I’m not pointing a finger. I’m actually pointing four fingers back at myself.”

Whilst one has to agree with the underlying premise that Erasmus is alluding to, I am at pains to point out that the issue arose in the first place due to SARU's decision making. It was the governing body who decided that a move to the URC was best for the South African sides. It was then the same governing body who decided to play the Currie Cup concurrently with the URC. It is also the governing body who has the South African players essentially partaking in an 11 month long season with only December as a respite from their labours.

Can one really blame the franchises then for bolstering their squad sizes? If you're going the route of the Lions and/or Stormers and splitting your group into two squads, that leaves only 25 players a side, meaning that all but two players will feature in every game (remember squad sizes are capped). It is simply not possible to contract 50 players who are capable of representing the Boks, but does that mean it shouldn't be done?

Take a player like Jacques Botes , probably the greatest servant to Natal rugby that there ever was. Never really in Bok contention or Bok quality but he was always dependable for his franchise and he was a player they knew they could rely on when the Bok stars were away. Continuing with the Sharks as an example, what are they to do when they lose +- 13 players to the National side later in the year? Like it or not, they are required to cast their net wider than they may like, just to be able to field a team in some instances.

Until we see the introduction of a global calendar or the more realistic alignment of the SA Rugby schedule with the tournaments we participate in, teams will be required to test their depth out and grant players on the outskirts of selection the opportunity to represent a franchise. It is due to their circumstances and not by their choice that the squads are bloated and possibly filled with players of sub par quality. The fix needs to come from the top down, and not the other way around.

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