Why Frans quit Boks

12 June 2014 - 02:25 By Craig Ray

A dispute over payments to the owners of Frans Steyn's image rights appears to have been the final straw that drove the player to quit the Springbok squad dramatically on Monday afternoon.

Steyn left the team's base in Durban just days before the first Test against Wales at Kings Park in an agitated state following the arrival of some senior SA Rugby Union (Saru) officials at the hotel.

The 27-year-old player and Saru have been at loggerheads over the handling of image rights payments and the appearance of officials central to the dispute incensed Steyn.

His defiant stand appears to have been made on principle, as there is no obvious financial gain.

Steyn will lose his current contract and match fees and could lose out on a lucrative World Cup contract. It could cost him more than R2-million in total.

His image rights have been owned by a third party since he joined French club Racing Metro in 2009 - a standard practice for high- profile sports stars.

When Steyn returned to South Africa in 2012 he was awarded a Springbok contract with a specific understanding that the use of his image rights would take place under licence from the third party. Payments were to be made separately and directly to the party by Saru, but that was not honoured.

Steyn's agent, Gerrie Swart, would not comment.

Saru commercial general manager Andy Marinos said he had not been involved with the matter for "over a year" and directed inquiries to Saru CEO Jurie Roux.

But Roux could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Steyn was also unavailable for comment, having retreated to his farm with his wife and baby.

The Sharks faced a similar situation when they offered Steyn a contract but they were upfront and instead included the licence fee in Steyn's contract, which the player then paid to the third party.

"I can't comment on Saru issues but I can confirm that we have a great relationship with Frans," Sharks CEO John Smit said.

Saru tried to defuse the situation in a bland statement, but the reality is that a talented, 53-Test cap player, who every nation on earth would pay handsomely to play for them if they could, has walked away from the Springboks due to a genuine grievance.

Steyn is feeling the strain and his decision to take a break is as brave as it is dangerous.

"At that level of rugby if your headspace is not right you can't just run out and play - it's a contact sport and he'll get hurt if he is not fully there," Sharks coach Jake White said.