The Blue Bulls Company wants to express their disappointment with the incorrect allegations made by inter alia Bakkies Botha as set out in his application filed at the Labour Court in Johannesburg in the light of the fact that this Company endeavoured to accommodate Bakkies in every way possible. The correct circumstances are set out hereunder:
Bakkies Botha was originally approached by the Blue Bulls Company (the “Company”) during the course of 2000 and signed an agreement to play professional rugby for the province for an initial period of two years, whereafter he entered into a further agreement with the Company for an additional period of three years.
Bakkies approached the Company in the second year of this agreement and requested a further extension of his contract period. The period of the agreement was subsequently extended until 31 October 2007 and his remuneration was also substantially increased.
Despite the fact that the rules and regulations of the International Rugby Board as well as the South African Rugby Union prohibit a player to negotiate with any ‘club’ during the term of his agreement with his current ‘club’, Botha through his representative Bernie Habana negotiated with another union and procured a very good offer. The IRB regulations expressly state the only time negotiations with other ‘clubs’ are permissible are within the stipulated period of 120 days prior to the expiration of the player’s existing contract term.
Once again, the Company accommodated Bakkies and upon his own request and in order to secure his career and income, offered him employment for a further period of five years and at a significantly increased remuneration package which he gladly accepted.
The validity of the latter agreement of five years entered into during September 2006 and which only expires in 2011, constitutes the subject matter of the current legal proceedings in the Labour Court. As a result of this contract, concluded on the request of Bakkies Botha, the Company was unable to retain the services of several promising locks such as Francois van Schouwenburg, Adriaan Fondse and Cliff Milton.
The Blue Bulls Company negotiated with Bernie Habana in good faith and in view of the fact that we previously successfully concluded an agreement surrounding his son Bryan’s contract as well as the fact that Bakkies insisted on using his services.
The Bulls Company wanted to secure and retain the services of Bakkies and therefore accommodated him in any way possible.
When it was later learned that Mr Habana was not registered as an agent, the Company and its board on two separate occasions in writing requested him to do so. It is our understanding that on one occasion SA Rugby also made this request, which Mr Habana chose to ignore.
The Blue Bulls Company, as is the case with every other union or rugby body in South Africa and elsewhere, endeavours to secure the services of the most talented players available, and in a timeous fashion. These players, such as Bakkies, enter into a valid and enforceable agreement with the Company, negotiated collectively between the South African Rugby Employers Organisation and the South African Rugby Players Association.
Enforcing the provisions of such agreement is the only manner in which the Company can secure its ‘assets’, being the players, in order to enable it to properly structure and plan ahead, to assemble and maintain a highly effective and competitive team in line with the vision and goals of the coach and to effectively procure and manage funding available for the purpose of contracting and keeping aboard these players.
Honouring the sanctity of the agreements entered into between the Company and the players, as in any other legal relationship creating rights and obligations for the parties involved, forms the basis of and is the only way in which some sort of certainty in respect of the available players and teams can be created and also to create and maintain some sort of uniformity amongst the players.
Such certainty in itself is a crucial and fundamental aspect needed in order to build the moral and character of the team which enables them to successfully compete and be able to win. The importance of this principle is evident from the disruptions caused by the current situation with Bakkies.
This obviously furthermore directly influences and results in the procurement of inter alia sponsors needed for the existence of professional rugby in South Africa and this Company in specific, and maintaining loyal and enthusiastic spectators.
With this in mind, we would like to add the following:
The Company strongly values the talent and abilities of Bakkies as well as his influence and leadership in the team.
The development, growth and success of the team strongly rely on the forward planning of the officials of the Company which is done well in advance and based on the procurement of the services of these talented players, like Bakkies, available and formally contracted to us and also very often to the detriment of other players available in the market.
The Company cannot compromise on these aspects and shall take all necessary steps to enforce the existing agreements and retain the services of these individuals in order to create a highly successful team and to be able to implement its structures as planned and provided for.
Without a doubt, Bakkies and players in general like any other party to an agreement, should comply with their contractual obligations in the same manner in which the Company shall be bound to the terms of the agreement between the parties if the situation was reversed.
If and when a player’s agreement terminates, he will be free to then negotiate and take up employment elsewhere if he chooses to do so.