Rugby 14.12.2016 03:46 pm

Not only South African rugby that’s trying to cling to top talent

It's expensive keeping guys like Kieran Reid in the All Blacks jersey. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images.

It's expensive keeping guys like Kieran Reid in the All Blacks jersey. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images.

New Zealand announce huge salary increases to keep their best players in the country and even that’s no guarantee.

South African rugby fans continually complain about leading players moving overseas for greener pastures.

And, at times, it feels as if South Africa is the only country struggling with the financial wealth of European and Japanese clubs.

But that is hardly the case.

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Even New Zealand, whose national and Super Rugby sides are the envy of many other rugby-playing countries, are struggling to keep their best players way Down Under.

New Zealand Rugby (NR) on Wednesday announced a big pay rise for local players in an increasingly desperate attempt to hold on to them.

According to the new three-year collective bargaining agreement struck between NR and the local players’ association, the funding pool for player payments will increase to R1.7 billion in 2019.

That huge amount is indeed the type of money needed to keep top players in New Zealand – and even that’s no guarantee.

The really interesting thing about NR’s new budget is that it represents a fairly big financial risk.

Despite boasting some of the best rugby teams in the world, New Zealand doesn’t make a lot of money due its isolated geographical location and very unfriendly timezone, which isn’t good for bargaining good broadcasting agreements.

As a result, they are banking on the income from the British & Irish Lions’ visit next year to fund the salary increases.

Lions tours are generally profitable because many fans from all over the UK try to experience the novelty of these visits, which only happen every four years.

Still, Steven Hansen, the All Blacks coach, isn’t convinced he’ll hold on to his star players and expects at least one of Ben Smith (fullback), Israel Dagg (wing) and Aaron Cruden (flyhalf) to pick Europe over local rugby.

If New Zealand needs to spend these tons of money to keep players, it’s fair to ask how the South African Rugby Union (Saru) is coping when they are projecting a loss of R150 million in 2017.

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