Gary Boshoff reviews the Super 14 semi-finals and warns that overseas-based players need to compromise when returning to South Africa.
One of the commentators put the Sharks’ lacklustre performance into proper perspective when he called it, and I quote: “Simply not good enough to win the Super 14″. Last week against the Chiefs they hit top gear, this week it seems they got stuck in third!
In the other semi-final the Crusaders showed why they’ve got six Super Rugby trophies in their cabinet. To tell the truth, I really thought the Hurricanes stood a chance with this one – even Christian Cullen the legendary All Black fullback felt the Hurricanes had their best opportunity in years to trounce the Crusaders. How wrong we all were – wishful thinking it turned out to be.
But you have to admire Crusaders coach, Robbie Deans, who has been the one constant factor in their success. Maybe his departure for Australia will improve the chances of the other 13 franchises to challenge for the title in 2009.
In fact, immediately after the Super 14 final Robbie Deans will start plotting the downfall of his Canterbury and New Zealand counterparts when they turn out for the All Blacks against the Wallabies in the Tri-Nations. If there is one New Zealand coach that understands the present All Black psyche, it’s Deans. Already John Mitchell has turned what was supposed to be the “weakest” Australian franchise, the Western Force, into a potent unit. The immense value of his in depth knowledge of New Zealand Rugby was demonstrated when the Force came perilously close to beating the Crusaders earlier this year. Deans’s unmatched rugby intelligence will add a new dimension to a Wallaby team that has been struggling as of late. I have a feeling that New Zealand will soon rue the day that they let him go.
Learn the hard way
Which brings me to John Smit’s return to South Africa to captain the Springboks. Apparently, Clermont, his French club have offered him a four-year extension on his present contract – so it isn’t as if he is hard-up for the “Springbok job”. He is after all the World Cup winning captain and can probably command one of the biggest pay packets in professional rugby, if he chose to. Notwithstanding this, he chose to return home to captain the Boks, naturally expecting to be offered a reasonable contract by one of South Africa’s five Super 14 franchises. This has not been easy coming because it turned out that Smit’s international market value is way beyond what the local franchises can afford. Even Victor Matfield could only be contracted (by the Bulls) with the help of a private businessman.
Further to this, as of late the Sharks learned the very hard way that it does not always pay to contract the top guys with the huge price tags.
Kees Lensing, who was reportedly contracted at what was reported to have been the biggest package in South African rugby at the time, did not add noticeable value to the Sharks, in fact, his last year with the franchise he spent more on the bench and in the Vodacom Cup side, than in the starting line-up. Therefore to ask the Sharks to pay a massive package to Smit while he will spend the bigger part of the season with the Springboks is a bit much. Add to this a top line salary package for the Bok captain and it become nonsensical for a province to contract him. In my opinion Saru should be shouldering most of the contractual costs as opposed to any one province.
Western Province on the other hand have contracted Percy Montgomery for the Currie Cup in anticipation of Conrad Jantjes doing national duty for most of the inbound Tests and Tri-Nations. Montgomery, like Stefan Terblanche, is not totally dependent on his South African salary because come the northern hemisphere season he’ll be back earning euros.
Players like Smit were able to command above average salary packages as a result of the World Cup success as success at this level generates opportunities that very few players can resist. There’re just so many zeros in that contract that it leaves the player little option but to sign. However, when overseas, they realise that they are not adapting well or simply don’t like it over there and want to return home. They should then realise that they’ll have to compromise on their “market value” as it is much lower in the South African rugby system than the overseas one.Tweet