A creative overhaul of the South African player contracting model will lead to improved use of resources, greater national and provincial alignment and improved succession planning at Springbok level, it was announced on Friday.
It is hoped that within a year the first benefits will be become visible. Sixty players of national interest will be contracted before the 2020 season, and with the new salary caps and contracting that in future will be done by the unions, it is hoped that more players will be retained to play in South Africa.
One of the issues agreed upon that will take precedence is the distribution of talent across the respective franchises.
This will be enhanced by the salary cap and the number of players allowed to be contracted by teams in each of the levels of competition, such as Super Rugby, PRO14, Currie Cup Premier and First Division, and at junior level.
The cap salary and number of players per franchise/union are two of the important key outcomes, the others being –
- Joint development of players of national interest (PONI) by unions and Springbok management
- Identified categories for payment: professional; semi-professional and development players (21 or younger who have not been offered a professional contract)
- And a “commitment clause” by which young players will be rewarded for longer term commitment to South Africa.
Among other advantages, the agreement will have the effect that more players will get reasonable game time as franchises/unions will not have and overload of star players in a particular position.
Players required for Springbok duties will be ‘seconded’ by the provinces to SA Rugby. The national Director of Rugby will identify Players of National Interest (PONI Players) at the various provinces, and will cooperate with those provinces, through an agreed ‘high-performance programme’, to ensure that PONI players are contracted and deployed to the benefit of both the provinces and the Springboks.
Rudolf Straeuli, SAREO chairman, said: “Players required for Springbok duties will be ‘seconded’ by the provinces to SA Rugby. The national Director of Rugby will identify Players of National Interest (PONI Players) at the various provinces, and will cooperate with those provinces, through an agreed ‘high-performance programme’, to ensure that PONI players are contracted and deployed to the benefit of both the provinces and the Springboks.”
Straeuli said that key to the new contracting model would be a reliance on fewer contracted players and greater use of younger “development players” and club players (on a short-term, injury replacement basis).
To deliver the player reduction, limits have been agreed on the number of contracted players per union and an overall remuneration limit.
The player categories are –
- Professional players (full-time players) who will be eligible to play in Vodacom Super Rugby, Guinness PRO14 and Currie Cup Premier Division competitions;
- Semi-professional players (part-time rugby players) who may only be contracted to play in the Currie Cup First Division and in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge;
- And development players (21 or younger who have not been offered professional contracts) who will play in the Under-21 and Under-20 competitions. However, they may be made available as temporary replacements for professional and semi-professional players;
- Club players may be contracted as temporary replacements for injured professional and semi-professional players.
Squad size and player salary bill –
Critically, agreement had been reached on Vodacom Super Rugby, Guinness PRO14 or Currie Cup Premier Division. Unions may not contract more than 45 professional players and have a salary bill greater than R60m (which will be phased in over three years) or of more than R15m in the case of the Pumas and Griquas.
- Currie Cup First Division teams may contract no more than 23 professional players or more than 40 players in total (including semi-professional players). Their remuneration cap is set at R6m.
- Unions may contract an unlimited number of development players providing they stay within a cap of R10m for Vodacom Super Rugby and Guinness PRO14 unions (reducing to R7,5m in year two) and R1m for all other teams.
Development player pool –
The unlimited development player pool is designed to provide a reservoir for identifying and nurturing young talent within financial limits. Promising development players will be utilised in the senior competitions to temporarily replace players who are injured or unavailable, preparing them for a senior career.
And an innovative new initiative has been designed to encourage young talent to commit to South Africa. A player receiving a contract for the first time to play Vodacom Super Rugby or Guinness PRO14 will automatically commit to make his services available to play rugby in South Africa for a period of three years provided the player’s contract is renewed on the same or better terms on or before a specific date during this time. If such renewal offer is not made to the player on or before the specified date the player will have no obligation to play rugby in South Africa.
This principle is only applicable to players entering the professional rugby playing system from November 2019.