World Cup-winning Springbok captain John Smit is available to Western Province, but also to the Bulls, and he won’t be coming cheap, having set his price tag at a whopping R1,5-million salary before he commits himself to either province.
Dale Granger writes in the Cape Argus that Craig Livingstone, Smit’s agent, did not comment on the R1,5-million salary Smit is demanding, which would easily be the richest provincial contract in South African rugby and about R500 000 more than the sum other Bok stars, such as Jean de Villiers and Schalk Burger, are currently earning.
The World Cup-winning skipper has been released from his two-year contract with French club Clermont and has made himself available to either Province, his former team the Sharks, or the Bulls.
Although the Sharks have said publicly that they will only consider player movement after the Super 14, it is believed that they want to retain Bismarck du Plessis as their No 1 hooker and are unlikely to bring Smit back to Durban.
In another twist to the saga over where the Springbok captain will end up playing his local rugby, both the Bulls and Western Province suggested that Smit’s agent was pricing him out of the market and would have to readjust before either union would consider contracting the Bok captain.
“We are almost seven months into the financial year and the question is: how much rugby playing time and game time would be required to justify that kind of salary?” said Western Province managing director Rob Wagner.
Wagner said it was an accepted reality that the southern hemisphere could not compete against northern hemisphere salaries (up to £400 000 [around R6-million] per annum) and that it was unrealistic for players returning home from Europe to expect to continue earning in South Africa rands what they had been banking abroad in euros or pounds.
Ian Schwartz, business manager of the Blue Bulls, said the Loftus franchise was very keen on Smit, but would only sign him onto their books within the parameters of a “reasonable budget”.
“John Smit is a brand leader and he is one of the players you would go out of your way to sign, but within the boundaries of a reasonable contract.
“He is a Pretoria boytjie who played Craven Week rugby in blue and we would be stupid not to be interested in his services. What is important to us is that the senior players, guys like Fourie du Preez and Bakkies Botha, really admire John. They regard him as special and want to play for him and that is why now that he is back, he should play provincial rugby.
“But somebody is going to have to come to the party,” said Schwartz.
The Bulls were only able to bring Victor Matfield back from France, where he was playing for Toulon, after a private firm in Pretoria had agreed to underwrite part of his salary in exchange for image rights.
Schwartz said a similar type of deal may have to be brokered for Smit.Tweet