Lions say couldn’t match lure of pound to keep de Klerk

Faf De Klerk of the Lions. Picture: Gallo Images.

Springbok scrum half Faf de Klerk signed a three-year contract with English Premiership side Sale Sharks because his South African Super Rugby Lions team could not match the financial package, the team’s chief executive said on Thursday.

A weak rand currency has spurred a stream of South African players to leave the country for teams in Europe.

“The player made a personal request to be released to further his career abroad and we felt we couldn’t stand in his way while. We also couldn’t match the offer he received,” said Rudolf Straeuli, chief executive officer of the Lions Rugby Company.

Straeuli said de Klerk would move to Sale once the Super Rugby season had concluded.

“Faf is still very important in our Super Rugby campaign as he plays a vital role in our squad system.”

De Klerk joined the Lions in 2014 and has made 58 Super Rugby appearances, scoring 12 tries.

After last year’s Super Rugby campaign, 45 players left South African clubs to play overseas, either on long term contacts at clubs in Britain, France and Ireland or on short-term deals in Japan.

This year’s SA Rugby Annual lists 311 South Africans playing rugby outside of the country in 2016.

In a bid to halt the exodus, the South African Rugby Union has said it will no longer select overseas-based players who have won fewer than 30 caps, though it is tempered by a rule that says the coach retains the right in a Rugby World Cup year to select any player he believes is essential to the campaign.

At the time the rule was introduced, Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby said he was “sending a message to young players that if they wish to play for the Springboks, then they must remain in South Africa.”