South Africa scrap 30-Test cap rule for overseas players
Last Updated: 23/02/19 11:04am
South Africa have officially scrapped a policy that required overseas-based players to have at least 30 Test caps to be eligible for Springboks selection as part of an overhaul of its contracting system.
The 30-cap criteria was introduced at the start of 2017 in an attempt to stem a growing number of players leaving South Africa to sign more lucrative contracts at clubs in Europe and Japan.
Head coach Rassie Erasmus managed to convince SA Rugby to relax the eligibility rule following his appointment in March last year and they have now confirmed it will be shelved for a new model which will see home-based players get top-up payments from the governing body according to a new ranking system.
"We have been agonising over how to keep players in the country since the game went professional more than 20 years ago and the bottom line is that the rand is too weak and the economy of South African rugby too small to compete," Erasmus said.
"A South African player can earn more from a two-month contract in Japan than he can if he were to win the World Cup with the Springboks this year. That's the reality we have to face up to."
SA Rugby has announced plans to invest in multiple Players of National interest. This will see the current Springbok contracting model turned on its head, the 30-cap rule for overseas-based players scrapped and overseas clubs warned Regulation 9 will be rigorously enforced.— South African Rugby (@Springboks) February 23, 2019
South Africa will significantly grow their number of contracted players with a focus on succession planning to ensure those who do leave the set-up are more easily replaced.
"In recent years we have focused on trying to retain a small number of high profile players. But it has been a small group and many of those players end up leaving anyway," Erasmus added.
"Last season those contracted players only appeared for 38 per cent of their available time.
"Once we have done our work, the new strategy could see as many as 75 players in Springbok succession planning and being financially rewarded for it."
Erasmus also warned overseas clubs he would strictly apply World Rugby's Regulation 9 that guarantees players are available for national team duty 14 weeks of the year.
The Boks have in the past compromised with clubs to allow them to retain players during the Rugby Championship and Autumn Internationals in the northern hemisphere.
"If the clubs don't like that then they have the option of not signing the player," Erasmus said.
"In recent years we have focused on trying to retain a small number of high-profile players. But it has been a small group and many of those players end up leaving anyway.
"Last season those contracted players only appeared for 38 per cent of their available time. Once we have done our work, the new strategy could see as many as 75 players in Springbok succession planning and being financially rewarded for it. We had to disrupt the model."