The Bulls did a good thing for rugby in denying Bakkies Botha a transfer to Toulon.
This has nothing to do with Bakkies. The issue is bigger than one player. Had Bakkies’s contract been coming to an end in six months or even a year you could understand him looking elsewhere or seeking the comfort of security with an extended contract.
But the Bulls, a year ago, had engaged in contract discussions with Bakkies when talk was that he would join Bryan Habana at the Sharks. News that the Bulls giant could be in a Sharks jersey certainly raised his shares and the Bulls did everything possible to keep their man at Loftus. In fact they signed him for four years, which effectively would see him playing out his career at the only professional franchise he has known.
Botha’s desire to now want to relocate to France is an odd one, given that he had a year ago been guaranteed the financial security and the home comforts of staying at the Bulls.
The only alternative for Bakkies is that Toulon buys him out of his contract. This would mean them paying a transfer fee, estimated at between R5 and R8 million. It is unlikely they will do so.
The Bulls stance restores some sanity to the issue of player contracts. If the Bulls had simply let Bakkies go, then you would have to question the value of existing rugby contracts.
Players – and more importantly their agents – have a responsibility to honour existing contracts. Botha signed with the Bulls for another four years. If you were the employer you’d think that gives you enough security of having one of the best players settled in your stable. You’d hate to think you would have to renegotiate his presence every year.
As for other players who are threatening moves abroad, the message is simple. If you are coming off contract, then take the cash and go, but also take the responsibility that goes with playing abroad.
Integrity in player contracts is an area of rugby’s professional game that has never matched the salaries. The Bulls company, in taking a sound business decision, has given the process of player contracting integrity and substance.
They paid good cash for Bakkies and they are entitled to a four year return on their investment in one of the game’s best players.