The growing trend of other countries poaching South African rugby players at a young age was a worrying one, SA Rugby Union (SARU) chief executive Jurie Roux said in Pretoria on Monday.
Speaking at the launch of the 2015 Varsity Cup, Roux said while SARU could not stop the migration of players to overseas clubs, they had to keep young talent in the country.
“What is worrying is the targeting of our younger players — they are grabbing them at U20 and players that we foresee playing for us,” Roux said at the Copperleaf Golf Estate.
“We’ve now changed the rule so the second qualifying is playing for the South African U20 side, so if you’ve played for the Junior Springboks since 2013 you cannot play for another country.”
A growing amount of young South African players are moving to the Northern Hemisphere with the intention of turning out for their adopted countries.
Former Junior Springbok and Blue Bulls flanker CJ Stander was one of the first prominent cases when he left South Africa in 2012 to join Irish province Munster.
While Stander would only be eligible to play for Ireland after this year’s Rugby World Cup in England, other youngsters to follow suit. Those who could feature in the showpiece were Danie Poolman and Quinn Roux.
Roux said although it was difficult to keep all the rugby talent in the country, SARU was looking into new contract models to slow the exodus.
“The reality is there can only be about 40 Springboks in a year, so anybody that is not a Springbok is going to start looking overseas,” he said.
“It is a very tough position we are in, we can’t keep 150 players in the country and contract all of them.
“We are working hard on a new contract model and how we are going to roll it out.”
Roux said if SARU had the means to keep certain Springbok players in the country they would make it more attractive for players to stay.
“We are saying to the players that when they start talking to overseas clubs they should inform us.
“We won’t stop them from going overseas unless we really want to keep them in the country and if we can afford it.
“We can’t bankrupt our business to keep players you have to look at the economic reality of what is affordable and what is not.”