The past few South Africans are bombarded with short news "releases/leaks" from the struggling SA Rugby (SARU) with the only objective to secure the salaries of their staff. And with staff, I do not refer to the players.
First, it was the smaller union's subsidies (grants) that was cut by 50% and with whom they (SARU) did not come to a settlement. This lead to these unions not being able to pay salaries of players contracted and to withdraw from SARU competitions. All citing financial restraints as their reason.
Then leaks came with regard to the number of players a union can contract with apparently caps to be placed on the salaries of players and age groups. Admittingly the Unions are struggling financially BUT do SARU really have the power to regulate another Union how to run a financial viable "business" if they also fail in doing so.
This weekend we were bombarded with "news" that the central contracting of players by SARU is to cease at the start of the 2020 season. This will inevitably lead to a bigger "Groot Trek" to the North than was ever witnessed by the cream of South African players. Apparently, match fees will be paid by SARU with a maximum amount of R 450 000 per player per test. The overseas clubs must be smiling all the way to the bank.
The only matter still outstanding to be leaked is the restructuring of the local competitions, and now it is Ruggas.co.za turn to leak information. According to reliable sources, the only junior competition planned for 2019 is an u/21 Currie Cup with the u/19 and u/20 competitions to be scrapped.
The Test Unions, as well as Eastern Province and the Leopards, competed in an u/19 Currie Cup while the smaller Unions competed in an u/20 competition. The structure of the u/21 competition is still uncertain as many smaller Unions already indicated that they will not be able to contract junior players and would have to rely on clubs to provide players for the junior competitions.
The decision by SARU to only play in an u/21 Currie Cup does not make much sense as the world over u/20 is accepted as the junior age group of competitions with the junior World Cup also an u/20 competition.
It was also confirmed that the Varsity Cup's Young Guns will remain an u/20 competition while Mr Willem Strauss, newly re-elected president of the Bulls announced a new club competition for the northern provinces' clubs where an u/20 competition will also be competed in.
With the Currie Cup to compete only at an u/21 level, there are several new factors coming into play.
Firstly according to Boksmart rules, the front row players are not allowed to compete for two age group above unless they passed a test to show their readiness to compete. These tests are already in place at Unions but some clarity needs to be given regarding the benchmarks to be used in assessing a player.
The Young Guns (u/20) competition remains the flagship competition for all u/20 players who will not be playing in the u/21 Currie Cup competition. Unfortunately, the Unions will "capture" these competitions to ensure playtime for their contracted u/19 players ending most hopes "genuine" students have to use the Varsity Cups as a stairway to rugby heaven.
The current clubs structures are receiving a makeover and with the success of the Gold Cup more junior players will get exposure and hopefully get noticed and be contracted by the rugby unions. It is currently uncertain if the Gold Cup will be expanded to include a junior competition and unfortunately at this stage is not an alternative to the Young Guns Competition.
The third and maybe most logical option for the "not so superstar" u/19 player is schoolboy rugby.
After the 'death" of the TUKS competition in 2018, all schoolboy games/competitions accept the participation of u/19 boys, while only the Youth Weeks are still played at u/18 level. The VirSeker Beker accepts u/19 boys, however, have a rule excluding a grade 12 boy repeating his final year for whatever reason. This does, however, not apply to Grade 11 boys repeating Grade 11.
With DSTV also entering the ring to fight for more live broadcasts of schoolboy rugby the exposure will only increase year on year. With schoolboy rugby players already more "visible" than any other player bar the Currie Cup and Super Rugby players locally, their chance to be noticed and contracted is a lot better than any other underage competitions currently available.
This makes the reasoning to spend one extra year at school just the more worthwhile and cheapest option. Whether the boys repeat his grade 11 year, to compete in the Noordvaal's VirSeker Beker or whether he repeats his grade 12 year at any other school in the rest of the country does not matter.
The return of the post-matric/19-year-old player is back and Ruggas.co.za has already confirmed 5 players who will be repeating Grade 12 as and when the new competition structures are announced.
For the first time in my life, I sincerely hope my trustworthy sources are wrong.