This article looks at the salaries of rugby players with the Crusaders in New Zealand.
It’s true that individual salaries are private contracts. However, the general salary ranges for Super Rugby are made public by New Zealand Rugby.
In addition, details often trickle out about the star players at the franchise. We take a close look at the two marquee locks, Sam Whitelock and Scott Barrett. You may also be wondering about how much the Crusaders would pay Pumas star Pablo Matera (you may be surprised at our review!).
How Do Crusaders Players Get Paid?
Before we get into average and top salaries, let’s take a look at how the Crusaders get paid.
New Zealand is different from many other countries where the clubs foot the wage bill for players.
In contrast, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) employs and pays the salaries of their Super Rugby players. NZR then contracts the players to the Crusaders roster.
There isn’t a single wage level for players. NZR negotiates pay rates with each player or their agent.
However, we know the approximate ranges which I’ll get into in a later section.
Brand deals and advertising
Brand deals and image rights are worth very different amounts across players.
Some work with national brands e.g. the big sports or retail companies.
However, there are other opportunities for lesser-known Crusaders who haven’t made the All Blacks. If you travel through the region, you’ll probably see local players in local advertising.
Of course, this isn’t going to be for big dollars, but it’s very welcome for those players at the lower end of the salary range.
The Christchurch franchise is allowed to seek extra funding or individual players from third parties. Every deal must be approved by NZR.
These third parties are usually businesses in the region that want to be associated with star players.
What makes up a Crusaders player’s salary?
Their entire salary can be made up of several income streams. These must all be reported to the NZR to ensure that salary caps aren’t being exceeded by franchises.
- Monthly wage from New Zealand Rugby
- Win bonuses and some expenses from the Crusaders franchise*
- Image rights and endorsements
- International tests with the All Blacks
- Third-party top-ups (only a few players benefit from these)
(*) Additional payments from the franchise must be kept within the national salary cap that governs the five New Zealand Super Rugby teams.
How Much Do Crusaders Players Earn?
Crusaders players earn from NZ$75K to NZ$195K as a base salary.
Crusaders who are selected for the All Blacks can earn an extra $120K per year in assembly fees.
A small number of star players with third-party funding earn up to NZ$500-700K.
Development players earn about $52K.
Individual salaries are negotiated with New Zealand Rugby who pays a retainer to players and contracts them to the franchise.
Young players on their first Crusaders contract will earn at least $75K, which is the bottom of the scale. This will rise over the years.
The players at the top end are experienced players who have been involved in at least some All Blacks squads.
As players approach the end of their careers, their salaries may drop towards the middle of the range. This can lead to them seeking a move to another franchise, or overseas.
The Crusaders has several young development players that they are preparing to take the step up to Super Rugby. Their wages of about NZ$52K per season aren’t included in the Salary Cap.
The Crusaders can also draft in more experienced club players as temporary injury cover. These players are paid a weekly wage of about NZ$1,800 for the duration.
Don’t be shocked if you encounter someone in a “real” job who you saw on the Crusaders bench for a Super Rugby match. This could be a guy working in sports sales or as a personal trainer.
He’s probably playing decent club rugby and was drafted by the Crusaders as injury cover.
Who Are The Highest Paid Crusaders Players?
The Crusaders have several marquee players who are amongst the highest-paid in the country.
Statistics published in Europe show that second rows are in the top three highest-paid positions across the elite leagues.
So, it doesn’t surprise us that two locks at the Crusaders are at the top of the salary range.
If you haven’t guessed, we’re talking about Sam Whitelock and Scott Barrett.
Sam Whitelock negotiated a long-term deal with NZR that allowed him to leave for a season for a lucrative contract in Japan.
We don’t know the specifics of his deal at the Panasonic Wild Knights.
However, former Crusader Kieran Reid reportedly earned NZ$1.03M for Toyota Verblitz in Japan. But Reid is a flanker, what about a lock?
Well, our article on salaries at the Chiefs noted reports that Brodie Retallick earned about NZ$1.3M per season.
We can expect Whitelock to be in the region of these figures. We’d be surprised if his contract was worth less than one million.
Sam Whitelock returned to New Zealand in 2022 to join the Crusaders on a significant pay cut. His salary while at the Crusaders is reputed to be about NZ$700K.
This package includes significant amounts of third-party funding.
Because Scott Barrett hasn’t moved clubs or countries, there are sparse details out there about his salary levels.
He and his agent quietly negotiate terms with NZR at the end of each contract.
Barret is five years younger than Whitelock and is more of a certainty of reaching the next World Cup without injury.
That makes us sure that he’s close to Retallick’s salary. That puts him at the top end of earners at the Crusaders.
We estimate the middle Barrett brother’s annual package to be about NZ$650-700K per year.
Pablo Matera on development wages?
Pablo Matera, the Pumas captain, joined the Crusaders for the 2022 season.
New Zealand Rugby does not allow overseas players to receive anywhere near the level of salaries that domestic players receive.
England’s flanker James Haskell played with the Highlanders and he later gave an eye-opening interview to the London Times on his experience. Here’s the link but it’s behind a paywall.
Haskell said he earned about NZ$20K for the season. This was back in 2012. We figure that The Hask was on a development contract, which is now worth about $52K.
We also figure that Pablo Matera is getting about $52K from the Crusaders.
You may wonder why on earth a top-class player like Matera wouldn’t go to France instead? It’s not all about the money – either with Haskell or with Matera. Both wanted to experience top-flight New Zealand rugby.
I also suspect that Matera is getting a major top-up from third-party sponsors (possibly Argentinian) who value his new association with the Crusaders.
How Much Do Crusaders Earn With The All Blacks?
When a Crusader is called up to the All Blacks, they get a weekly fee of $7,500 for the tour or competition.
You can get more details in our article on New Zealand rugby salaries. You may be surprised how low the All Blacks pay compared to England!
How Do The Crusaders Compare To Other Super Rugby Franchises?
We’ll start with the other New Zealand franchises and then look across at the neighbors.
New Zealand franchises
The average salaries are similar across the New Zealand franchises. However, salaries for the stars can vary widely
You’ll find details in these articles:
- How much do Auckland Blues players earn?
- How much do Chiefs rugby players earn?
- How much do Highlanders rugby players earn?
- How much do Hurricanes rugby players earn?
Due to the salary cap in Australia, the average salaries of Australian rugby players tend to be similar across their Super Rugby franchises.
However, the top earners at each franchise and their packages are very different. Check out these articles for details about stars at the clubs:
- Brumbies player salaries
- Melbourne Rebels salaries
- Queensland Reds salaries
- Waratahs player salaries
- Western Force player salaries
How Do The Crusaders Compare To Other Countries?
The Crusaders have lost many good players to overseas clubs.
Check out these articles about the salary levels overseas:
If you’re interested in a particular club in England or Ireland, you’ll find a link to a detailed article in the above articles.