Crusaders Dominance Brings Salary Cap Question into Play
The Crusaders are charging towards their eighth Super Rugby title, but so they should be with the ludicrous amount of talent they have been allowed to accumulate.
Admittedly, they are good to watch at the moment, but they seem capable of spending twice as much as anyone else for new players, which has allowed them to set up this dynasty of a franchise.
The problem is now because their reputation has been allowed to grow so much, they are the team that everyone wants to play for because they will get noticed as individuals when they are in a winning side.
We are seeing a shift to our Super Rugby teams being set up with players coming in from anywhere. We have to accept this is professional sport that New Zealand has not seen the like of before. It is not provincial rugby anymore.
This is fine—it works in most other professional sporting leagues in the world. But it is time a salary cap was enforced like most of these professional leagues have so that no franchise can bolt ahead of the rest.
At the moment, there is not an even spread of players around the country. The New Zealand Rugby Union are signing players, but not distributing them evenly to each franchise.
For an example, let’s look at where the current Crusaders squad come from.
In the forwards, there are four key players who were not brought up in the area: Corey Flynn is originally from Southland; Brad Thorn signed from Australian rugby league (twice); Kieran Read was snatched from Counties-Manukau just out of high school; Richie McCaw is from Otago.
In the backs, it is even worse: Robbie Fruean is from Wellington; Sonny Bill Williams is from rugby league via French rugby; Israel Dagg and Zac Guildford are Hawkes Bay born and bred, while Sean Maitland is from the Waikato.
Canterbury now also have all four of the Whitelock brothers on their books, who are from Feilding.
They nearly also signed the Highlanders best player Adam Thomson.
And it is not like there is no talent coming through—several players have had to move on to get more rugby, including Isaac Ross, James Paterson, Kade Poki, Chris King and Tyson Keats.
And that is not counting all the players who have moved overseas in recent times because of the logjam.
There are also the five eighths’ Stephen Brett and Colin Slade—admittedly they were stuck behind Dan Carter but you get the point—the talent pool is phenomenal and seemingly never ending.
Yet they seem able to sign a lot of the new hot talent that crops up around New Zealand.
It would not be as bad if the salary cap was brought in. Franchises could sign whoever they want for Super Rugby, providing they stay under the cap which would even the playing field.
And you can still have provincial ITM Cup rugby alongside it as a separate entity.
There may be light at the end of the tunnel. Across the Tasman a salary cap is being proposed to prevent other franchises getting even weaker where the Waratahs have steadily been acquiring the countries best talent.
For this to work, the whole Super Rugby competition would have to get on board which would make for a much fairer competition.
You could argue that a cap would restrict our chances even more of keeping players here. But they will leave regardless, whatever money we throw at them will not be as much as what Europe and Japan can offer.
With the new conference format only magnifying New Zealand vs. New Zealand teams even more, the public will lose interest if the NZRU does not make an effort to keep our franchises even.
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