It’s that weird and wonderful – and very exciting – time of the year where players and coaches move between clubs and contracts are negotiated. And the one’s loss is often the other’s gain.
And so it is again – and sponsorships won and lost are particularly interesting in these days where the game’s top clubs and even countries are struggling to make ends meet.
There are many other examples, but the contrast between the Wallabies and All Blacks fortunes that were highlighted this week underline the new-season jitters and jubilation.
♦ The latest reports from Down Under is that Rugby Australia (RA) are facing the probable loss of their financial buoy Foxtel after a relationship of 25 years. The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that Foxtel have withdrawn a five-year deal with RA.
This could be a telling body blow for RA after a near-horrendous few years on the field, the Issy Folau saga off it and the fall of the game’s popularity.
TV revenue is by far Rugby Australia’s biggest source of income and it effectively underwrites Super Rugby and the Wallabies.
♦ The opposite, however, is on the cards for New Zealand Rugby. Sky TV has confirmed retaining the broadcast rights to the All Blacks and domestic rugby for a further five years until 2025.
No sum was mentioned but the rights are worth NZ$500 million (nearly R4,8 billion at R950 000 per year) according to a service that monitors sports media rights.
♦ Success, of course, brings sponsors, and it is to be hoped that South Africa can procure a big sponsorship in the wake of the RWC success.
No top country has as many diverse rugby challenges as South Africa. They posted a modest post-tax profit of R2m for 2018 after two years of losses of R62,4m in 2017 and R15,7m in 2016. Urgents sponsorships are needed to maintain and increase the wave of success.
Looking at the changing of the guard as far as coaches go, South Africa, like New Zealand, still has to appoint the man who will take over from Rassie Erasmus.
With the exception of the two remaining candidates, Ian Foster who was right-hand man to retired head coach Steve Hansen and is not very popular with rugby followers and Crusaders’ successful coach Scott Robertson, the other 24 candidates invited by New Zealand to apply for the vacancy have cried off.
The Wallabies have already secured the services of Dave Rennie, who will take over as head coach mid-2020 after completing his contract at the Glasgow Warriors; Wales have appointed Wayne Pivac; England captain Owen Farrell’s dad Andy takes over the Ireland reigns; Fabian Galthie has been coaching with outgoing France coach Jacques Brunel to ensure a smooth take-over; Franco Smith is the new (interim) coach of Italy; and worldwide support staff are moving from one country to another.
And the same, of course, goes at club level.
SA franchise coaches
At home, fie of the six South African franchises (the four in the Super Rugby competition plus the two PRO 14 sides Cheetahs and Southern Kings, have new head coaches. The Bulls are the exception – and their man Pote Human, the oldest and most experienced of the six, will be in only his second year as Super Rugby head coach in 2020.
Player movements and SA’s loss
Looking at player movements, there will be only 14 Boks of the 33 World Cup heroes playing Super Rugby in 2020.
- Of the match-23 in the final, 13 players will not play their rugby in South Africa in 2020. Eleven of them – Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Damian de Allende, Handré Pollard, Faf de Klerk, (all overseas), Malcolm Marx, Lood de Jager (also injured), RG Snyman, Franco Mostert, Duane Vermeulen, Frans Steyn, Eben Etzebeth and Vincent Koch – are contracted overseas and Beast Mtawarira and Francois Louw have retired.
- That leaves only eight (Makazole Mapimpi, Lukhanyo Am, Bongi Mbonambi, Herschel Jantjies, Siya Kolisi, Steven Kitshoff, Francois Malherbe and Pieter-Steph du Toit) of the 23 finalists who will play Super Rugby in 2020.
- Outside of the match-day 23 for the final, four of the ten members of the so-called “bomb squad” (including Jesse Kriel and Trevor Nyakane who returned home early because of injury) won’t play for a South African franchise. They are Cobus Reinach, (Northampton), Kwagga Smith (Japan), Kriel and Schalk Brits (retired).
- That leaves six of the “bomb squad” who will play in the Super Rugby competition: Thomas du Toit, Damian Willemse, S’bu Nkosi, Trevor Nyakane, Warrick Gelant and Elton Jantjies. The World Cup winners in South Africa, including the eight finalists mentioned above, Makazole Mapimpi, Lukhanyo Am, Bongi Mbonambi, Herschel Jantjies, Siya Kolisi, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe and Pieter-Steph du Toit, therefore total 14.
New-look teams from the Bulls, Lions, Stormers and Sharks will challenge their counterparts in New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and Japan, who will all have their fair share of new faces. Except for Japan, the other three participating countries sides have, like South Africa’s four sides, all lost many star players to the lure of the Euro and the yen.
Yes, it is a little unstructured, the future a little vague and there is plenty of uncertainty about. But it will be exciting!