Think twice, big Lions flank Willem Alberts has cautioned young players eyeing lucrative moves to Europe.
In the midst of the financial difficulties the rugby community faces amid the coronavirus pandemic, SA Rugby gave locally based players a 21-day grace period to explore overseas options.
That period is set to expire on Thursday.
Alberts could testify of the pitfalls of a move, having spent several years with French giants Stade Francais in Paris (79 games from 2015-19) before returning to Johannesburg this year.
“Often an agent or club lure you over there with their own hidden agenda, which is not always in the best interest of the player,” said Alberts, who has turned out in 43 Tests for the Springboks.
“In my case it was a good experience, but it took me a good few years to get acquainted to the lifestyle, weather and culture.”
Alberts, who has earned 110 Super Rugby caps (37 for the Lions and 73 for the Sharks), added that every player’s situation should be treated on merit.
“It’s about whether a player is at the beginning or end of his career. If he is married, got a girlfriend or kids and what his financial planning entails. Why he wants go over. There are numerous factors,” he said.
“And when you make that call you must go full-out. You must realise you will be far away from the family and the language could pose challenges, the weather can get you under in France.”
Though Paris is a beautiful city, arriving there in winter and not seeing the sun in weeks could be depressing for a South African player.
“There are a lot of pros and cons and any young player is welcome to talk to me about it,” Alberts said.
“It’s a big sacrifice and you must ensure you are making the correct decision.”
Alberts said this lockdown reminded him of the loneliness often felt while living in a foreign environment.
“Any young players who don’t enjoy the lockdown time must think carefully before they go overseas,” he said.
“Otherwise they are in for a big surprise.”