SARugby dangles Lions as carrot to stay in SA

South African Rugby is using the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa in 2009 as a carrot to stay in South Africa. Even though players could conceivably sign with a European club for 2008 and then return for 2009 they are trying to sign up as many players as possible.


New Zealand’s All Blacks are currently signing contracts “en masse” with European clubs and will be leaving New Zealand after the 2007 Rugby World Cup.


The 2009 British and Irish Lions tour and the renewal of the contracts of top South African rugby players could prevent an exodus of Springboks to Europe later this year.


SA Rugby, whose contracts with leading Springboks expire after the World Cup tournament in October, is already looking at the possible extension of some players’ contracts.


Springbok captain John Smit says new contracts and the Lions tour could prevent South Africa losing its best players to affluent European clubs.


Several northern hemisphere clubs are eager to sign Smit, who has denied that he has had signed any contracts with clubs in England or France. Sports Digital Media’s sources tell us that he has already signed with Clermont and can’t wait to take up skiing.


“European clubs approach leading players every year, but this year is different, because it’s World Cup year,” Smit said to De Jongh Borchardt of SA’s Beeld newspaper.


“It is a good thing that Andy Marinos (SA Rugby’s manager of national teams) is working towards extending the national contracts.


“It is unclear what the future holds for (Springbok coach) Jake White. Many players want to know what will happen with him before they make a decision.


“I have often said I’d like to captain the Springboks to a series victory over the Lions. Many players never get the opportunity to play against them, therefore it is a big attraction for us.


“I will never turn my back on SA rugby. The Springboks are my life and even if I find myself abroad I’ll make a plan to ensure I am selected for South Africa.” Smit added.

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