A change in the Australian Rugby Union’s (ARU) policy on foreign players competing in the Super 14 rugby tournament represents a massive threat to South African rugby.
The ARU voted on Friday to allow Australian teams to each recruit up to two foreign players for next year’s Super 14 — overturning a previous rule that only players eligible for the Wallabies could take part in the competition.
Dan Retief writes for SuperRugby that with four Super 14 teams, the Waratahs, the Brumbies, the Reds and the Force, this means there will immediately be eight places open to foreigners and it appears certain Australian scouts will target South Africa’s rich rugby reserves.
South Africans such as Tiaan Strauss, Dan Vickerman and Clyde Rathbone have in recent years turned out for the Wallabies and the Australian Super 14 teams will almost certainly look for prospects in South Africa — especially props and other tight forwards who are in short supply down under.
On their recent tour to South Africa the Wallabies were accompanied by David Nucifora, the former Brumbies and Auckland Blues coach who is now Australia’s director of coaching, and it is rumoured he left these shores with a briefcase bulging with the CVs of many outstanding young South African players looking to follow in the footsteps of Vickerman and Rathbone.
There are conditions attached to the relaxation of Australia’s Foreign Player Policy, but none which will deter a South African determined to seek greener pastures.
Australian provinces will be allowed to sign one “marquee” foreigner — an international who can never qualify for Australian selection because of an IRB regulation that limits players to one country representation throughout their careers.
The Australian Provinces will also be able to contract a second “developing” foreign player who has yet to represent his native country at test, Sevens or A-team level and could qualify for the Wallabies after three years of consecutive residency, as per IRB regulations.
If a Province decides not to recruit an established overseas international, it can sign two development players.
However, the signing of two overseas test/sevens/A-team players will not be permitted.
Restrictions will also apply to the contract period for a foreign star, with the overseas test/sevens/A-team player limited to a two-year stint at any one team.
Super Rugby teams wanting to recruit any foreign player will need to make an application to ARU before proceeding, to ensure compliance with the ARU’s development plans and programmes.
The ARU also re-affirmed its policy not to consider for Wallabies selection any player based overseas.
Strong rumours have been circulating in local rugby circles recently that senior Springboks are considering a move to Australia — with Perth, which is so much closer to South Africa, apparently a preferred destination.Tweet