RUGBY FRANCHISES: Bulls and Sharks lead recruitment drive after poor Champions Cup and URC results

RUGBY FRANCHISES: Bulls and Sharks lead recruitment drive after poor Champions Cup and URC results

The South African rugby community is abuzz with transfer news as the franchises – particularly those with the biggest financial clout – move to bolster their squads ahead of another long and demanding season.

The present South African season still has a couple of weeks to run, with the Currie Cup final on 24 June. Yet this is a crucial period for all the franchises, who will be looking to improve on largely disappointing Champions Cup and URC campaigns. A number of major signings have already been confirmed, and more are expected ahead of the 2src23-24 season, which will officially start on 1 July.

The call for an increase in the salary cap has been heard, with MyPlayers agreeing to raise the spending limit for each squad to R85-million. In addition, the player cap has been raised to 57, and franchises will have the freedom to contract four “marquee players” outside the salary cap.

Coaches have been calling for bigger squads since SA Rugby moved its teams to the northern hemisphere in 2src21. More recently, Stormers coach John Dobson spoke of the need for more quality players in a squad, given the demands of three tournaments staged across two hemispheres.

Shortly after losing playoff fixtures in the Champions Cup and URC, Bulls director of rugby Jake White admitted that his squad lacked depth as well as X-factor, and that recruitment would improve the franchise’s chances of success in 2src23-24.

The Sharks fared even worse than the Bulls, with their inconsistent showings in the URC costing them a place in the next instalment of the Champions Cup. Significant changes have been made to the coaching and playing structures, and the team will be under pressure to improve over the next 12 months.

Coaches key to Sharks’ turnaround

The Sharks have made a series of ambitious statements in recent years. When MVM, a US-based consortium, acquired a controlling stake in the franchise in early 2src21, Sharks CEO Ed Coetzee claimed that the team had the potential to become South African rugby’s answer to Liverpool or Manchester United.

In the ensuing two years, the Sharks signed a host of world-class players, including World Cup winners Siya Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth and Bongi Mbonambi. The recruitment drive did little to boost results, though – and ultimately the loss of a place at the Champions Cup table is a major blow.

Perhaps the changes to the coaching structures, as well as a few key player signings, will have the desired effect. Last November, Sharks coach Sean Everitt stepped down after the team suffered a

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