Former Springbok coach Jake White believes a player draft system might be exactly what South African rugby needs to help strengthen Super Rugby franchises.
Writing for AllOutRugby, White says that rugby in the country could take a leaf out of the books of many other professional sports and not only in terms of a draft system.
“If you’re running a professional sport, you have to actively learn from rival codes around the world. Part of what I do as a rugby coach is to visit professional teams and learn from them. I went to visit Toyota’s women’s basketball team the other day – half of the team plays for Japan’s Olympic basketball side and I went there to see how they train, how they recruit and contract players, what formations they play in, how their analysis system works, who does their conditioning to make sure they can jump higher, and who works on their hand-eye coordination. All of that applies to rugby in one way or another,” said White.
Looking at a player draft, in particular, White believes that such a step would help ensure each Super Rugby franchise had its fair share of top talent.
“The way the game is set up now, we’ve got unions that stockpile the best players and murder the market for all of the other teams,” says the 2007 World Cup winning coach.
“The NFL has marketed the annual college draft so that it’s a successful event in itself and people all over the world tune in to see who gets picked first overall. Soccer has a transfer window, Rugby League, pro baseball and pro football have a draft system. Rugby Union has nothing.
“Part of that is because the game is much newer to professionalism. But maybe we need to start learning from those other sports. We’ve been quite quick to learn about jumping from basketball and using wrestling techniques for our breakdown, but we haven’t taken the same lessons from other sports’ structures.”
White feels that South Africa still had not jumped at the opportunities professionalism presented, particularly in Super Rugby.
“We weren’t even able to fully embrace professionalism when the opportunity was presented in Super Rugby. In New Zealand, they’ll pick a guy from Auckland to play for the Crusaders, but in South Africa we probably don’t have one guy playing for a Super Rugby team that doesn’t also play for the main province in that ‘franchise’.
“We’ve got to decide whether we want rugby to be professional. If we do, then it’s time to go all in,” concluded White.