I'm back after a little hiatus & taking some time out to see how the URC would pan out. Glad to say that it seems that our teams are now starting to prove their worth and that the URC as a competition is starting to find it's identity. As an added bonus it seems that we'll have 2 teams that will qualify for Heineken Cup participation. All is golden in the land of sunny skies, bakkies, braai & rugby... or is it?
Let me explain. As things stand, South Africa is already the number one export destination for rugby talent. Young, mid-career or well experienced, they all have a place in the market. Even with RFU restrictions coming into the English leagues pretty soon, it seems that the export saturation point is still some way off. The highly anticipated Heineken Cup might end up as just another competition where French, English, Japanese etc. clubs cherry pick our players one by one, as if at a local produce market.
"Yes, but we already have a heck of a lot of SA players plying their trade overseas. Our depth is still very good in quality and quantity", some might say. True.
"It's creating opportunities for younger up and coming players and affording the overseas players opportunities to earn very good money." Which is also very true. So why the Euro-Japanese skepticism?
Simply put, If we don't want to have only 1 SA team in the Heineken cup every year, through mandatory top of the pool qualification. And additionally want to showcase our value as respected SA unions/franchises, then we need to retain some our best & most promising players.
It's bit of a player salary balancing act, I'll admit. But it's of utmost importance that we need strong domestic teams to carry the flag. To insure a healthy domestic set up, decent crowds and corporate backing, we'll need a decent sides to follow and support. While we are fortunate that in SA new players seem to be rolling of the local production line, like well built vehicles in Uitenhage, we cannot expect this to carry on indefinitely.
The Sharks have in recent times started this process, and the Bulls to a certain degree. But more needs to be invested on a broader range of teams and local competitions. SARU needs to play a more prominent role too. We have the players, now let's try and keep more of them.