Explainer: What is a Kolpak contract?

Explainer: What is a Kolpak contract?
South Africa's bowler Kyle Abbott bowls on Sri Lanka's batsman Dimuth Karunaratne (not in picture) during the fourth day of the first Test between South Africa and Sri Lanka on December 29, 2016 in Port Elizabeth. (FILE PHOTO: AFP)

South African cricket was rocked Thursday when fast bowler Kyle Abbott and one-day star Rilee Rossouw quit the national team in order to play county cricket in England under so-called ‘Kolpak contracts’.

Here, we try to explain Kolpak agreements:

– The Kolpak ruling came into force in 2003 when the European Court of Justice ruled that anyone with a work permit from a country which has an associate trading agreement with the EU had the same rights as a European worker.

– The ruling originally related to Slovakian handball player Maros Kolpak who was released from his German club because of a quota on non-EU players. He claimed it was unfair and the court ruled in his favour.

– A player becomes eligible for a Kolpak deal when he gives up the right to play for his country, and is not classed as an overseas-player signing.

– Kolpak players need only a working holiday visa to play.

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Abbott departure rocks South Africa

When Abbott announced to quit the national team, Cricket South Africa immediately cancelled his contract and said it was in the process of doing the same with Rossouw.

Both have Kolpak contracts with Hampshire which preclude them from playing for South Africa. Abbott has signed for four years and Rossouw for three.

The announcements came immediately after South Africa clinched a Test series against Sri Lanka, winning the second Test by 282 runs.

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Abbott will not play in the third and final Test in Johannesburg next week.

“It’s a massive loss,” said South African captain Faf du Plessis, who was unaware of Abbott’s decision until the player told his teammates during the Cape Town Test following a report from England about his impending move.

Du Plessis said Cricket South Africa needed to take action to prevent a further player drain.

Three other players – Stiaan van Zyl, Simon Harmer and Hardus Viljoen, who have all played Test cricket in the past 15 months – have also signed Kolpak deals recently.

“We must make sure something like this doesn’t happen again,” said Du Plessis.

“These players are too valuable and too important for us to sit back and say, these things happen and other players will take their place.”