Heinz Schenk
2 minute read
7 Dec 2017
9:42 am

Explainer: The death of SA’s smaller rugby unions

Heinz Schenk

The South African Rugby Union (Saru) needs to pass a compromised budget at its general meeting in Cape Town. It's going to get ugly.

Saru chief Jurie Roux. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)

The South African Rugby Union’s (Saru) general meeting on Friday has been proclaimed by some stakeholders as “one of the most important days in local rugby history”.

Ironically, this has nothing to do with the future of Springbok coach Allister Coetzee.

Arguably the biggest agenda item is Saru’s budget for the next financial year and it will have massive implications.

Isn’t the passing of a local governing body’s budget always important?

Of course it is yes but this one is particularly notable because it’s expected that Saru will have to present sizeable cutbacks to it’s members.

Budget cuts are always bad but what makes this one special?

Every of the 14 provincial unions in South African rugby receive yearly distributions from Saru. What makes it even worse is that the majority of the unions – Boland, Valke, Border, Leopards, Pumas, Griquas and Griffons – rely solely on that money to keep their operations going. Most of the smaller unions are already financially unsustainable for a few years now.

How much money are we talking about here?

The smaller unions received R15 million from Saru this year. It’s expected that these distributions will have to be reduced to at least R10 million. It could even be more.

Doesn’t that then simply mean these unions should become amateur of semi-pro again?

That’s a simple enough argument in theory but in reality it’s far more complicated. South African rugby has had too many professional players for too many years now. However, rugby has been those players’ livelihood and cutting that off would effectively leave them out of work. There aren’t any other viable competitions around to keep local depth going too.

So the smaller fry will be hardest hit?

You could say that but it’s actually competent, competitive unions like the Pumas and Griquas that will have to adapt quickly and effectively. These two teams punch above their weight on the field and give chances to so-called rejects who are actually too good to fall by the wayside. They also still add competitiveness to provincial tournaments.

Rugby at the smaller unions could die then?

Well, definitely professionalism yes. It’s possible those unions will be forced back to an amateur setup.

Are the big teams safe?

This year, the franchise unions received R51 million each from Saru. Don’t be fooled by that figure. It still places immense strain on them because they somehow need to keep elite players here and stay competitive as foreign clubs still pilfer the best talent.

How does the voting work and will the budget pass?

It’s a simple voting process. A simple majority (51%) is needed to pass the budget. Despite the inherent disadvantages it bring to the smaller unions, it probably won’t prevent them for voting for the cutbacks because there’s simply no other way. Saru’s lack of funds are a reality.

For more sport your way, follow The Citizen on Facebook and Twitter.