South Africa’s leading players could soon be “loaned” to English Premiership club Saracens on a sabbatical arrangement similar to Dan Carter’s six-month deal with French outfit Perpignan.
Rugby 365′s Jan de Koning writes that Eddie Jones, former Wallaby coach and technical advisor to the World Cup-winning Springbok team last year, is on a fleeting visit to South Africa to formalise the deal on behalf of his club, Saracens.
Jones, who joined Saracens as a Director of Rugby at the start of the 2008/09 season, has already been in preliminary discussions with the Blue Bulls management and will also chat to Western Province officials this week.
In an exclusive interview with rugby365.com Jones confirmed that the “loan agreement” is one of the key reasons for his visit to South Africa.
He returns home later this week to resume his duties at Saracens, ahead of their European Challenge Cup Round Two match against Italian outfit Viadana at Stadio Luigi Zaffanella on Saturday.
Carter’s deal with the French Top 14 club was ground breaking, in that it allows the player to enjoy the European experience, without being lost to New Zealand rugby.
He will join Perpignan after the All Blacks’ end of year northern hemisphere tour and Carter would return to New Zealand in June 2009.
Jones, speaking after he had met the Bulls coaching staff and management on Monday, explained the reasons for his visit – despite a hectic European schedule.
“Obviously we have the same owners in the SAIL company,” he told rugby365.com, adding: “So what we would like to do is try to maximise intellectual knowledge between us and the Bulls and us and the Stormers.
“We are looking to share ideas with coaching staff, in terms of strength and conditioning, player management, medical and coaching.
“Then there is also the win-win situation of player exchange,” he said.
Jones said that while English clubs are always seen to be taking players out of South Africa, Saracens are looking to return the favour.
“What we’d like to do, because of the special relationship we have with the Stormers and Bulls, is if we have some good player who need some game time and the Stormers and Bulls are short in those positions, to loan those players to the South African provinces.
“Conversely, the other way round, if there are some young players who aren’t getting much game time and we need a player in that position they’ll come to us on loan.
“We’ll help develop them and send them back to the Stormers and Bulls a better player.
“The last situation is your very high profile player, who maybe want a European experience , but rather than go the full hold and sign and cut their ties with their provinces – particularly in South Africa where the players have a very deep relationship with their provinces – are able to take a sabbatical of five or six months or a full season.
“They can come and play with Saracens, we develop that player even more, they enjoy a different culture and then go back to play for the Bulls and Stormers again.”
Jones said that the discussions are at a “preliminary” stage and no specific players have been mentioned.
“We’ve had some good chats [Monday] with the Bulls and we’ll continue to chat,” he said, adding: “There’s certainly no-one in particular at the moment.”
Jones, because of the fleeting nature of his visit, didn’t really have much time to help the Bulls ahead of the Currie Cup Final against the Sharks in Durban on October 25, but he is still putting his money on a Bulls win.
“The Bulls by eight,” was is straight-forward reply when asked about a possible result in the Final.
While he has not been able to help the Bulls coaching staff much, Jones said he was very happy to see how far the team from Pretoria has come along this season – after a very shaky start in the Super 14.
“It is one of the pleasing things to see how the team has developed,” he told rugby365.com.
“With the team having been so successful in the Super 14 under the old laws, they probably struggled early on – with a number of other issues as well – to find their game.
“But now they’ve found their balance in terms of the ELVs and they are going pretty well.”
The Saracens boss also said he has not followed all of the Currie Cup action this season, but watched the latter stages of the competition and also the semifinals.
“We tried to see if some teams – like Western Province, the Blue Bulls and the Sharks – are doing something innovative in terms of how they interpreted the ELVs,” he added.Tweet