Brenden Nel – SuperSport.com
Pretoria – It will be an uphill battle to keep Springboks in this country after the upcoming Rugby World Cup, especially with some massive amounts being offered to players at the moment to join clubs overseas.
That’s the view of Bulls Director of Rugby Alan Zondagh, who believes that while franchises and SA Rugby will do everything they can to convince players to stay in the country, it will be very difficult to argue against the financial incentives.
According to SuperSport.com, Zondagh met with Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus last week with a number of the Bulls’ Boks whose contracts come to an end after the World Cup and believes they are making progress, but the fight is tough.
Handre Pollard, Jesse Kriel, RG Snyman and Jason Jenkins are some of the players who have been targeted by overseas clubs and will decide their future shortly.
“I have to stay positive about it, (but) it will be very very difficult. As I am sitting here, and if Swys (de Bruin – Lions coach) is sitting where he is sitting and the Sharks or the Stormers with Pieter-Steph (du Toit)…. the franchises just don’t know what to do… it is inevitable, but we will do our best to keep our boys.”
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Zondagh said while he believed the new direction that Erasmus had decided upon – to enforce Regulation 9 so that overseas-based players will not be stopped by their clubs to play for the national team – has helped the argument, but the sheer difference in exchange rate makes it a tough argument to sell.
“I think so, but money is still the evil, and what they get offered to go overseas. If you think you get offered that type of money to go overseas, you’re going to think, here I go. I’m not against that, it is world markets, it is demand, and we have brilliant players in South Africa.
“We have a lot of players and they are going to keep stealing our players. They are busy with the second tier now and some of the clubs are busy with the 20 year olds now, because they see good players that they can get into their system quite early and maybe even get them to play for their country.
“We are going to have a continuous problem. But we are trying to do at the Bulls now, is make it so comfortable for the players here that they want to be here. And players on the outside want to come here because they say to themselves: ‘If I really want to be a top player, I have to go to the Bulls, they can turn me into a top professional’. That is what we have to do.”
Zondagh called for a new approach to contracting, concentrating more on quality over quantity when it comes to recruitment.
“It is not going to work anymore to say we have the biggest budget and we are just going to buy the best players in the country and you don’t do anything with them. I think that will be our biggest challenge to make sure we develop our players into better players. Make the best better and that has been neglected a bit in South Africa.”
Zondagh warned that if they get it wrong, the Bulls could be a spent force by next season.
“That is a major problem, we could go from top to bottom within a season. Besides the top players that we might lose… and hopefully we can keep (them)… the next job is to ensure that your No 2 is as close as possible as No 1,” he explained.
“You can’t go into these competitions where your No 2 is far removed from your No 1, and then you don’t even talk about your No 3. So that is why the individual player development for me within the team, has to be continuous. Take Eli Snyman, look how he stepped up and where he still can go.
“We must make sure we get him as close to Lood (de Jager) as possible, so when Lood gets an injury, Eli steps in. But he isn’t the finished product yet, but you can see the potential is there. We must make sure we work individually with each player and we must make sure we must get him close as can be again.
“And then we will have a squad that can carry on and if you lose a player after two years, then we know the next guy can step in, and there is a smooth transition, otherwise we are going to have this massive difference.”
While the Bulls are on a bye this week, Zondagh has been hard at work implementing his changes to the system, which he believes will better equip the franchise to try and keep their top stars.