When rugby embarked on the path to professionalism 26 years ago, it did so kicking and screaming. The sport, deeply rooted in amateurism, was going to take time not only to accept the new, uncertain times but also to come to grips with and embrace them.
Fast-forward to 2src22 and the concept of professionalism in the South African context – or what represents progress – draws different responses from different quarters. Private investment has been encouraged and has come to the sport gradually. But as it has started to accelerate, a more insular culture in which it is every man for himself has taken root.
This is not a bad character trait at the now well-funded and resourced Bulls and Sharks franchises. They have developed a better grasp of what works and benefits them as opposed to the wider rugby fraternity, which is restricted to hand-to-mouth decisions.
A case in point is the way the Sharks and the Bulls view the salary cap under which South African rugby franchises have to operate when assembling their squads. The Sharks, Bulls, Lions and Stormers have to stay under R68 million a year in player contracts.
The cap was introduced to protect franchises and provincial unions from themselves. It was aimed at tempering ambition with reality so that teams don’t dig themselves into a financial hole. The arrival of the pandemic underlined the need for austerity, but the Bulls and the Sharks want the salary cap relooked.
They say the conditions under which the salary cap was set are no longer applicable. And they have been at pains to explain that South Africa’s participation in the Europe
…. to be continued
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