- “Salary cap” might become the new swear phrase for South African teams in the URC as the gulf in finances already revealed itself this past weekend.
- Indeed, even frugal Leinster’s player budget is three times that of local franchises’ though that picture is a bit distorted.
- As Bulls mentor Jake White points out, the Irish giants use their money in a sustainable manner focused on continuity and long-term success.
In Super Rugby, South Africa’s swear phrases were “travel” or “time zone”.
After just one week of action in the United Rugby Championship (URC), that’s changed to “salary cap”.
While Jake White isn’t remotely complaining about the issue, the Bulls director of rugby noted that the vast gulf in finances between local and Celtic franchises has already been writ large.
Leinster, who comfortably disposed of SA’s leading side 31-3 at the weekend, operate within a local system that allows for a payroll of roughly R185 million.
It’s still frugal in comparison to the astronomical budgets of the French clubs – Stade Francais reportedly have R680 million to spend on players – but it’s more than three times the allowable South African amount.
“That’s an interesting question (on whether we can realistically compete with the budgets of fellow teams) because their (Leinster) salary cap is about R185 million, our is R60 million,” said White.
“Maybe you can push it up because you can carry some of it over. Be as it may, that’s the competition we’re in. When we played Super Rugby, people said it was the travel and timezones that was our biggest disadvantage. Maybe the salary cap will be this competition’s, but we can’t change that. You deal with it.”
Another factor why Leinster, who won the last four PRO14 titles before the formation of the URC, aren’t necessarily the best example of monetary wealth is their player model.
While they undeniably have the financial means to keep their 30 Irish internationals, they only have one foreigner in their entire 46-man senior squad in prop Michael Ala’atoa, illustrating their desire to cultivate long-term continuity and success.
It’s a template White unashamedly wants to copy in a local context.
“I can’t undervalue the fact that Leinster have go it right. They have an academy that works, coaching staff that have been here a long time,” he said.
“I spoke to (Leinster senior coach) Stuart Lancaster and some of them have been here for six years. That’s six years of continuity, development and exposure to international rugby.
“That’s where I want the Bulls to go to. We want our junior players to stay at our union for a long time, grow as players, become internationals and then stay on with us. That’s what I’m trying to do as director of rugby.”