Crusaders Chief Executive Hamish Riach might have been rather liberal with the truth last week when he denied allegations that his franchise was attempting to poach some of South Africa’s rising young rugby stars.
On Friday last week rugby365.com reported that the South African Rugby Union had moved swiftly to end the Crusaders’ poaching project. Johan Prinsloo, the SARU CEO, said they had been in contact with the New Zealand Rugby Union to put an end to the poaching scam.
But Riach has since denied there was anything sinister about the Crusaders’ involvement in what he has labelled a “private sporting academy” in Centurion, near Pretoria.
“This is wrong, they have completely got the wrong end of the stick. To say we are intending to pinch their players is completely untrue,” the Crusaders boss told The Press newspaper in Christchurch.
However, rugby365.com can now, exclusively, reveal the full contents of the letter sent to South African schools – in which the Crusaders’ true involvement in this supposed academy is revealed.
Speaking of a “nationwide programme of talent identification” in South Africa, the letter also makes it very obvious that participation in the programme offers as reward “post-matric opportunities in Christchurch”.
The letter – signed by Jacques van Heerden, the Project Manager, who is seemingly acting as an ‘agent’ for the Crusaders – also makes it clear that as part of the talent identification, the Crusaders are hosting an “all expenses paid training camp in Pretoria”.
In another eye-opening revelation, the letter offers free access to the camp for Sports Master that contributes “five or more players” to the July event and a chance for said Sports Masters to be invited to Christchurch next year.
While Riach insisted that the Crusaders had entered only into a “commercial licensing agreement” with the academy – which also involves sports such as golf, swimming and football – he acknowledged that the franchise would benefit financially from the licensing agreement.
It is also very clear that the Project Manager, Van Heerden, is acting as an agent for the Crusaders. What is not clear is what benefit the project has for South African rugby.
Here is the letter, in full, sent by Jacques van Heerden to leading South African schools:
“17 May 2010; Dear Sir
“Crusaders of New Zealand is planning a nationwide programme of talent identification in South Africa, with the goal of offering this country’s most exciting young prospects a variety of opportunities to experience the culture of New Zealand’s most successful Super Rugby franchise. A unique programme of elite performance coaching has been developed for young players in South Africa in addition to post-matric opportunities in Christchurch.
“As part of the talent identification Crusaders is hosting an all expenses paid training camp in Pretoria from 5-10 July. Hosted by coach Todd Blackadder and several former Crusaders test players, the camp will feature 18 sessions of world-class conditioning and coaching presented by recognised experts and coaches. Each player will undergo an intensive physiological assessment and receive a detailed report of his results. Career advice and information will be presented by a sport agent, and the entertainment programme will include access to the FIFA World Cup and other premier events.
“Entrance to the camp is by invitation only, and 60 U16 players will be chosen from across South Africa to attend – where they will compete for selection in 2011. In order to identify the group of 60, Crusaders will be hosting assessments according to the following schedule:
*Thursday, 27 May – Pretoria
*Friday, 28 May – Johannesburg
*Monday, 31 May – Bloemfontein
*Tuesday, 1 June – Cape Town
*Wednesday, 2 June – Port Elizabeth
*Thursday, 3 June – Durban
“The assessments will include full anthropometric, strength and fitness testing and physiological evaluation by Players Performance Management. Attendance of the assessments is free and also by invitation only. It is our request that you identify the two best U16 players in each position at your institution and submit them for assessment. The 60 best players from around the country will be selected on the basis of their performance and travel to Pretoria in July.
“Crusaders is offering a unique long-term opportunity for talented players, and I trust we will enjoy your full support in securing their future. The Sports Master from each school that contributes five or more players to the July training camp will be invited to attend and be hosted by Crusaders. Five of these masters will be selected at the end of the camp to travel to New Zealand in January with members of the management team.
“Please confirm your intention to submit your players for assessment before the end of Wednesday, 19 May. Application forms and confirmation of assessment venues will be supplied upon reply, for completion and return by no later than Monday, 24 May.
“Best Regards; Jacques van Heerden; Project Manager.”
Article Courtesy of Rugby 365 editor Jan De Koning.Tweet