Apart from issues around the simultaneous contracting of John Smit and Bismarck du Plessis, the Sharks will presumably be unwilling to re-sign the Bok captain due to questions around his eligibility for the Currie Cup competition. Their concerns are valid, yet I feel a compromise should be reached between the Sharks and the national body in the interests of bringing Smit back home to Durban.
It has been widely reported in the press that Smit seeks a R1.5 Million annual provincial contract, to top up whatever it is that SARU will be putting into his pocket. The Sharks, Western Province and the Blue Bulls have all balked at this sum, citing Smit’s unavailability for Currie Cup rugby as a large factor in them not being able to fork out such a large amount. They have a point. Let’s assume that a player’s value to his province is split evenly over the course of 13 Super 14 matches and 14 regular season Currie Cup games. This gives us a total of near enough to 30 games, over which a player like Smit’s value can be calculated. R50k per game is pretty much what the Sharks would end up forking out should Smit be available for each game the team plays. Knowing what Smit is worth to the team, I don’t think that’s an unreasonable sum.
Problem is, Smit isn’t going to play 30 games for the Sharks this year. At most, he could potentially represent them in 16 games this season, assuming that he misses out on the entire Springbok campaign this year, which would be somewhat pointless. At most, the Sharks would be looking at a pro rata contract fee of around R800k for this year, which again is a lot considering that Smit is quite unlikely to feature at all in the Currie Cup.
I see a compromise as the only way forward. Comparing the schedules of the Boks’ international commitments in 2008 with the Currie Cup, John Smit could potentially play 8 Currie Cup games for the Sharks this year, not including a potential semi-final and final. This represents a realistic sum of R400k for the rest of the year, assuming that Smit’s value to the province is as calculated above and that his availability for those games could be guaranteed. That leaves a shortfall of somewhere around R400k which should be made up by a combination of SARU match fees and contributions from private businesses in the same sort of deal that was done for Vic Matfield.
SARU needs to come to the party here because it is them that have allowed the situation where large portions of the Currie Cup are contested without the Springboks present. There is absolutely zero incentive for provinces to contract leading Springboks for the Currie Cup season, since they are effectively owned by the national body during this period and the resulting return on investment is zero. One would probably find a lot more interest if Smit was trying to pick up a contract at he start of the Super 14 season, rather than just before the Currie Cup kicks off.
Since the National Body has burned its fingers in the past with contracting large groups of players at national level, it would probably make far more sense for all players to be contracted at provincial level and have a defined “per match” fee, which the national body would need to pay to the province for every provincial match that the player misses out on due to international commitments. This amount should probably be set and capped by an independant external body, making the process of determining what each player’s worth is as transparent as possible. Provincial unions would then have a much clearer position from which to operate when determining what size of contract to offer to a player likely to be called up for international duty during the course of the season.Tweet