The curtain is quickly coming down on the careers at the Sharks of the famous Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie, after a final offer to keep them in Durban was turned down last night in favour of French club Montpellier.
The Sharks have attempted to move heaven and earth to keep the famous brothers in Durban next year and, in conjunction with SARU, put an offer on the table that that would have made them arguably the best paid players in South Africa, according to Sharks CEO John Smit.
The Du Plessis’s are both Brothers in Arms for the Sharks and the Springboks, and they are also a package deal when it comes to negotiating their future, and after years of French clubs (unsuccessfully) making mega-bucks offers to the pair, it seems South of France club Montpellier has finally nailed down the Bethlehem “boets.”
Bismarck, 31, has played his entire career at the Sharks since moving to Durban from Bloemfontein as an 18-year-old in 2004 and is his franchise’s most capped Super Rugby player (129) while Jannie, 33, joined his younger brother in becoming a fixture in the Sharks (and Springbok) front row since he moved to the Sharks from the Cheetahs in 2008 and himself has subsequently earned 114 Super Rugby caps for the Durbanites.
Sharks CEO John Smit last night said that as a last resort he had put together a deal that would probably have elevated the brothers to the highest salaries possible in South Africa, but the pair have decided to move on and play two years of club Rugby in France.
While figures of what rugby players earn are highly guarded, it is known that Stormers captain Duane Vermeulen is currently the top earner in South Africa.
It is also reliably known than the brothers have had second thoughts about joining Montpellier since none other than Jake White became the club’s coach last year after he had “moved on” from a Sharks squad and management that were not prepared to work with him going forward. It is an open secret that that the brothers did not get on with the unpopular White, and now perhaps are not that keen to re-unite with their old boss.
An additional problem is the Euros 150 000 pre-contract agreement that is the norm in France, and with the Du Plessis’ having signed this stipulation, according to press reports from Montpellier, that would mean a joint Euros 300 000 forfeit they would have to repay the club.
There will be conspiracy theorists that will also wonder if Montpellier negotiated with the Du Plessis’s outside of the IRB-endorsed window period — July 1 in South Africa and September 1 in Europe which, if proved true, in turn could spell censure for both the club and the players.
Whatever the case, the Sharks have done their best to keep the brothers, first negotiating their future with them back in February.
“We heard through the grape vine that there was discussion between the Du Plessis’s and Montpellier a month before Jake became the Montpellier coach, but I am not going to allege in the media that this was outside the window in which it should have taken place,” Smit said. “We were prepared to increase our off but we never had a response.
“We then offered them a new figure in March, knowing that we would only have them for about nine games of the Super Rugby season, and we were talking about another R1-million per player.
“That was also declined,” Smit continued. “Then the South African Rugby Union came to the party, offering a three-year-deal, and added financial value to the offer. The brothers did not accept. We then this week made a final offer that would take them to the highest salary scale in the country, but this has been declined.”
by Mike Greenaway