Johannesburg - Lions Rugby CEO Rudolf Straeuli stressed his belief that the deal for star flanker Vincent Tshituka has not been fully completed; and that the signings of the 24-year-old and teammate Carlu Sadie were announced prematurely by the KwaZulu-Natal franchise earlier this week.
The loss of Tshituka and Sadie – both to the Sharks - along with captain Burger Odendaal to Wasps, will be acutely felt by the Lions next season; and although Straeuli admitted that he was not surprised by their signing for another team, he does believe that there is a degree of impropriety observed in the announcements, specifically by the Sharks.
Moreover, Straeuli revealed that he is waiting on Sharks CEO Eduard Coetzee to discuss the matter of the players' contracts in full.
“No, it wasn’t a surprise,” Straeuli admitted, saying that the players in question’s contracts were indeed up for renewal and under discussion. “Firstly, all of these players were offered a contract and not one of them was not market related – from Vincent, Burger and Carlu – we made them all offers ...
“I’m still waiting for the return of Eduard coming from America but I’ve said to him, ‘we need to have a meeting on this, because this is going to get ugly’.
“They (the Sharks) decided to announce; and we are reserving our right – and I am not going to say what we are going to do and what our rights are. They have offered more money and what do you do, you go to the place with more money.”
“We matched certain of their offers and we also made the first offers. Unfortunately, I cannot divulge those offers.”
“But say I offer you R1, and it is marker related; and somebody offers you R2 and I match it, but then they (the competing union) say, ‘no, we are still going to give you something on the side here – don’t talk about it’; that is where our problem lies.”
It is understood, in Tshituka’s case especially, that the loose-forward is contracted with the Joburg-based side until the end of 2022 and that his responsibilities to the union will only conclude in December.
As revealed by Straeuli, who was flanked by the union’s head of contracting, Tracy van Ginkel, and media and PR manager, Nyaniso Sam, at their Doornfontein base on Thursday, the company's policy is to begin negotiation for contract renewal 12 months before its termination.
Moreover, as the Lions have matched the Sharks offer, Tshituka’s services should remain with the Johannesburg-based side, or a form of compensation paid for its early termination.
Currently, all SA franchises are constrained by an agreed upon R62-million salary cap, which must cover no more than 50 professional players over the age of 21. This cap, at the Lions at least, covers all expenses - from match fees to bursaries for university committed players to accommodation. There is also a further R7m cap for the players within the junior structures.
The Sharks have gone on a massive recruitment drive recently, snaffling up the likes of Siya Kolisi, Bongi Mbonambi, Eben Etzebeth, Tshituka, Sadie and disgraced Springbok Aphiwe Dyantyi at considerable expense; while the Bulls have also been busy in the transfer market, as have the Stormers.
Straeuli speculated that the transfers would head towards an inevitable conclusion, if left unchecked.
“It’s going to be like what happened to Saracens,” Straeuli said, referring to the salary cap scandal that the English club was found guilty of in 2020. “I’m not saying that the guys that are involved are going to become like Saracens, I’m saying the same thing is going to happen in South Africa.”
Meanwhile, as reported by a local news site, Tshituka’s agent – Dane Galley – insists that the move to the Sharks is legally sound and compliant.
Independent Media did reach out to Marco Masotti, who heads up the US-based consortium MVM which holds a 51% stake in the Sharks franchise and has been the major driver in their recruitment on Thursday for comment. At the time of publication, Masotti had referred our queries to Coetzee, who is currently on a business trip in the US.
Update to follow