Player exodus allows Lions to hit the refresh button
JOHANNESBURG – While disappointed to lose a host of players to European and Japanese clubs, Lions chief executive Rudolf Straeuli said yesterday there was now an opportunity for the union to “freshen up”.
Veteran stars Lionel Mapoe, Ruan Combrinck, Robert Kruger and Robbie Coetzee, young guns Nic Groom, Sylvian Mahuza, Danie Mienie and Harold Vorster, and loan players Stephan Lewies and Franco Naude have all ended their employment with the Lions.
This is on top of Malcolm Marx recently saying he won’t play Currie Cup rugby this year or be involved in next year’s Super Rugby campaign. The Springbok hooker will enjoy a six-month “sabbatical” in Japan following this year’s World Cup.
It has also been learned that Kwagga Smith is on the verge of signing a similar deal, which would mean he too will be unavailable for the 2020 Super Rugby competition.
The Lions are also yet to finalise new deals with star flyhalf Elton Jantjies and tighthead sensation Carlu Sadie, who played Super Rugby for the Lions this year while on loan from Western Province. Also, locks Lourens Erasmus and Andries Ferreira have left the Lions in the last year.
“All the guys who are leaving us contributed unbelievably to Lions rugby and we thank them for their services,” said Straeuli. “But with a new contracting system and players being eligible for the Springboks from outside the country, we simply cannot stop them from going abroad. We cannot compete with what overseas clubs are offering.
“There is now an opportunity for us to refresh, something we have been doing for a while already. There are quality youngsters in our system who we’ve already seen play Super Rugby, and they all have exciting futures ahead of them. They all have an opportunity now in the Currie Cup to show what they can do with an eye on Super Rugby next year.”
Straeuli added that the Lions were in the process of recruiting new players, but said they would also back the junior structures and hand opportunities to Under-21 players.
Already this year the Lions have trialled men like hooker Jan-Henning Campher, prop Nathan McBeth, locks Ruan Vermaak, Rhyno Herbst and Reinhard Nothnagel, loose forwards Vincent Tshituka and Hacjivah Dayimani, and backs Gianni Lombard, Wandisile Simelane and Tyrone Green.
Experienced players like Andries Coetzee, Ross Cronje, Cyle Brink, Warren Whiteley, Dylan Smith, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Marvin Orie and Jantjies are expected to feature in Super Rugby next year.@jacq_west