Rugby union: Pienaar captaincy under threat

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The Independent Online
Rugby union

Pienaar captaincy under threat

Francois Pienaar will never captain South Africa again after his part in a campaign for improved pay and benefits for Transvaal players according to the former Springbok hooker Uli Schmidt. Schmidt said the dispute involving 14 players, 13 of them Springboks, "may have been resolved but scars will remain. I don't think Francois Pienaar will captain South Africa again." Pienaar played a leading role in a campaign to provide players with greater financial security. Schmidt said none of the Springbok players earned less than pounds 1,900 a month. However, last week the players refused to train and were excluded from the Transvaal side which successfully opened their defence of the Currie Cup with a 33-3 victory against Free State yesterday. The players have since agreed to suspend the campaign until the international board meets in August to discuss amateurism and will resume training tomorrow. The Australian Rugby Union hopes to offer contracts to players next month, following last month's multi-million-dollar deal with Rupert Murdoch. The A$760m (pounds 292m) deal gives Murdoch's News Corporation broadcast rights to international and domestic rugby in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa until 2005. New Zealand will start offering contracts to its players next week and Australia is keen to follow suit as quickly as possible.