Cash cow gets milked again

Seven weeks, at a cost of close to R2 million, and half of those players at the Bok national camp probably won’t go to the World Cup. Just another expense for the cash cow known as SARU.

With the Spears demanding a further R9 million to the R6 million they’ve already received and the Spears legal case already costing SARU R1 million plus the Spears legal bills, you’d think fiscal discipline within the organisation would be a priority.

It is one thing to invest wisely in the World Cup preparation, but to throw money at a nothing event, as is the Boks’ national training camp for the next six weeks, asks serious questions of the leadership within South African rugby. These questions were asked in the judgement that favoured the Spears, but in an environment where there just is no consequence to any decision-making you don’t get any answers. All you can be guaranteed of is more spending.

Jake White’s 24 contracted Springboks will enjoy each other’s company for the next seven weeks. They’ll fly in to Johannesburg on a Monday morning and return to their homes on a Thursday afternoon. SARU will pay the salaries of all 24 players in this time, they’ll pay the hotel accommodation, the flights and all extras attached to being away from home. A conservative estimate is that the seven week exercise will cost the national governing body R1.7 million. A more realistic figure is that it will be closer to R2million.

What makes the camp more bizarre is that many of the players who will ‘benefit’ from this expense probably won’t go on the end of year tour or the World Cup and if they do they’ll go as passengers with the bulk of the Tri Nations squad that finished the tournament actually playing in the Currie Cup. The reason for the latter is that the stars of the last two tests are not contracted Springboks.

So while the conditioning specialist Derick Coetzee gets excited about improving Wayne Julies and De Wet Barry’s speed in the next seven weeks or Gurthro Steenkamp’s strength or Ricky Januarie’s agility and kicking game, the likes of Wynand Olivier, Ruan Pienaar and BJ Botha will play Currie Cup rugby.

Of the 24 players White has at the camp Marius Joubert and Schalk Burger can’t actually train. They are already on rehabilitation for serious injuries. The same applies to Ashwin Willemse, Bakkies Botha and Steenkamp. Bryan Habana is currently injured, so too Joe van Niekerk and there are a couple of others who won’t gain any immediate benefit because of injuries.

Julies and Hanyani Shimange, for example, are desperate for game time. They’ve hardly played this year and if you took Shimmie’s overall game time in all competitions and divided it into his gross annual salary you would find that he is probably the world’s highest paid rugby player for services rendered by the hour. It’s not his fault. He does not pick himself and he certainly does not pay himself.

But Coetzee remained thrilled at the opportunity to spend seven weeks with the boys, without the additional burden of actually preparing for a test match every Saturday.

And so is White. In a SARU statement he said: “The camp presents our medical team with an opportunity to monitor and look at the individual needs of the players on our contracted list. They will look at the shortfalls and areas for intervention. It’s great that we will be spending time on areas we could not address earlier, due to the tight rugby schedule we have just had.”

Coetzee, in the same statement, said the management of each player’s situation will depend on the outcome of assessments.

“With seven weeks left until the UK tour, the players’ conditioning has been comprehensively periodised,” said Coetzee. “The first four to five weeks have been specifically identified for base strength improvement, after which explosive power training will be implemented. Players’ weaknesses will be identified and specific attention given to the necessary improvement. Complex training components, including resistance training, plyometric training, sprint training and rugby-specific training, all form part of the training camp.”

Firstly, if Coetzee and his team don’t know a player’s weakness after working with them for three years, then they should not be involved. Secondly, what benefit is there to be gained when you are working with players who aren’t the first choice group? The absurdity of it all is that Breyton Paulse, one of the best players in the last two tests, is off contract with everyone and is currently hanging out in Cape Town. He is not in Johannesburg! But six crocked players, who have been out of rugby for three months or more are there!

In any organisation where there is accountability, especially when it comes to spending money, the camp would not have gone ahead. The merits of the situation … the fact that so many of the contracted players are injured and so many have lost form would have convinced a board not to continue with the camp, which comes at a cost of close to R2million.

Then again, this is South African rugby and the guys spending the money aren’t responsible for making it. It isn’t theirs and they don’t have investors they have to answer to. They have the comfort of regular annual income, thanks to the broadcasting deal. And so they spend, spend and spend with no regard to the consequence of this spending and with even less regard as to what they are spending the money on.

I look forward to seeing the express pace of Barry and Julies against the England and the power scrumming of Shimmie. The prospect of Steenkamp coming off the bench to replace Os du Randt is worth the plane ticket. I also look forward to seeing Joubert’s explosiveness and new found ability to pass. I can’t wait for Schalk’s tackle on Martin Corry or Bakkies Botha’s cleanouts at the ruck. And then let’s not forget Ashwin’s rounding of Mark Cueto.

But I know that there is nothing to look forward to from those players because they won’t play against England. Yes, they’re either injured or very much down the pecking order of selection.

It still hasn’t stopped everyone milking the cash cow that is SARU.

The Spears are claiming millions, which they will probably get, the national team’s spending millions which they don’t need to and the leadership of South African rugby pats itself on the back because of cash reserves that have been halved in the last 18 months. As they will tell you, it’s not their job to make money. Only to spend it.

For those who are unsure about who the 24 contracted players are, here is the list with their current status of being first choice, injured or out of the loop. SARU have also informed this website that Jaco van der Westhuyzen, who has been contracted until the end of next year, is in Japan and won’t attend the camp.

BOk contracted players
Os du Randt (first choice, but just undergone injury)
Gurthro Steenkamp (been injured for the last year)
Eddie Andrews (dropped from the national squad)
CJ van der Linde (injured for the last three weeks)
Hanyani Shimange (dropped from the national squad)
John Smit (first choice hooker)
Bakkies Botha (injured for the last two months)
Albert van den Berg (permanent lock reserves)
Victor Matfield (first choice lock)
Schalk Burger (injured for the last three months)
Joe van Niekerk (injured for the last three weeks)
Juan Smith (injured for the last three weeks)
Jacque Cronje (out of the starting XV for last two tests)
Ricky Januarie (dropped from squad)
Fourie du Preez (first choice scrumhalf)
Jaco van der Westhuyzen (dropped from the squad)
Jean de Villiers (first choice inside centre)
Jaque Fourie (first choice outside centre)
Marius Joubert (injured but was already dropped)
De Wet Barry (dropped from the national squad)
Wayne Julies (dropped from the national squad)
Bryan Habana (first choice left wing)
Ashwin Willemse (injured for the last year)
Percy Montgomery (dropped from the national squad)

From the 24, this is who started the last test match against the Wallabies: Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Fourie du Preez, Victor Matfield, Os du Randt and John Smit.

*Earlier I claimed Conradie and Sephaka to be on national contract. Apologies to all whom I may have offended and thank you PissAnt for pointing out the error of my ways. I have asked SARU to mail the complete list of 24 players at the camp.

**And to those who argue R2million is small change, ask the auditors about that when they’re looking at the SARU cash reserves dwindling by the month. The issue here is not the contracted players. It is the basis of the camp, which serves no purpose when 16 of the end of year tour party, at a minimum aren’t at the camp.