No money and no loan players for South Canty
The Heartland Championship kicks off on Saturday but the South Canterbury side is still to secure its loan players.
The competition format allows each union up to three loan players and a "player of origin" in the match-day squad of 22 but no-one is rushing to join the green and blacks.
For South Canterbury coach Chester Scott it has not been through lack of trying.
He said it had been a frustrating process and over the past few months he had spoken to 15 players seriously about coming to Timaru. There had been several that had committed only to later withdraw, including three the week after the Hamersley Cup grand final.
Scott also has little to offer them apart from the pride of playing for South Canterbury and the opportunity for further exposure.
He still hopes to have at least two loan players signed up before kickoff against Wanganui on Saturday but there were no guarantees.
Scott said there was no point in bringing a player in unless they were clearly better than those playing in the local club competition.
"That is a waste of time and money. We are clearly better off developing local talent."
The South Canterbury Rugby Union has a very small budget that allows for travel and accommodation but other unions, including neighbours North Otago and Mid-Canterbury, appear to offer a lot more. It also seems for those unions the Heartland Championship is a real driver in terms of their overall success while the South Canterbury board does not see it as top priority.
Mid Canterbury have set a benchmark in terms of remuneration with first five-eighth Murray Williams, who has previously played for North Harbour and in Japan.
Scott said while the Heartland was supposed to be an amateur competition it was clearly not.
"Players talk among themselves, so do coaches and know what is going on.
"Also fringe ITM Cup players who missed out are also wanting to be remunerated, which is understandable."
Scott did not know how much Williams was receiving but the Herald understands the total package could be in excess of $20,000, including flights and accommodation.
Not helping South Canterbury is the fact they are the only province without a chief executive, which means the negotiations are also up to the coach.
Scott said he had spent countless hours trying to entice players to come but he admitted he had little room to move.
"If they are after money we are out."
Being located between Oamaru and Ashburton was also awkward when trying to attract someone from either Dunedin or Christchurch, as travel time to practice was a lot longer.
Success also no doubt plays a part in attracting a player with Mid-Canterbury having won the Meads Cup last year and North Otago regularly in the top four.
North Otago also undertook a pre-season tour of Fiji and Tonga.
The attraction of taking the next step up had worked for the likes of last year's loan players Liam Edwards and Rick McKenna.
Edwards shifted from Dunedin to Hawke's Bay and is on the fringes of the NPC side, as is McKenna for Taranaki.
Scott said lock Hayden Mitchell was named in the Canterbury B team but later withdrew.
"I believe the base of players in this year's squad is better than the past few years so we have the potential to do even better."
But Scott admitted that having two or three class players in the mix made a real difference to the complexion of a side.
"They also help lift the others around them."
As far as a "player of origin" was concerned, Scott was keen to see if Daniel Dorgan recovered from injury in the next couple of weeks.
"We are keen to have Dan if he is fit."
South Canterbury has until round 5 of the championship before the final cut-off for loan players.
The Timaru Herald