Sport / Rugby

Heinz Schenk
2 minute read
9 Nov 2018
2:59 pm

Reality bites as Lions lay off players

Heinz Schenk

The union prepares for the contracting changes in 2020, while the Bulls recruit a forgotten Springbok winger.

Cornal Hendricks. Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images.

Reality sucks, as the Lions and South Africa’s other rugby unions are finding out.

The men from Ellis Park on Friday announced in a signed joint statement with the South African Rugby Players Association (Sarpa) that it they had commenced with offering mutual severance packages to some of their contracted players.

This process has, however, been labelled “involuntary”.

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While the course of action obviously illustrates the massive financial challenges that local unions stare in the face, the Lions have arguably jumped the gun a bit.

In fact, the move is part of SA Rugby’s broader drive to reduced SA’s pool of professional players by 54% to 459 from a massive 989.

Such a number has become unsustainable.

The governing body wants this done by 2020, but it seems the Lions have – probably prudently – decided to bite the bullet early and be prepared for the new system in less than two years’ time.

“After numerous meetings with all relevant parties, the industry changes have forced a change in strategic planning,” said Bart Schoeman, the Lions’ high performance manager.

Mandisi Tshonti, general manager for player affairs at Sarpa, noted that the Lions won’t be the only union taking this drastic action.

“With unions experiencing ongoing stress determined by factors within the industry, we can expect more of these processes to follow. It’s not something new and from past experience we’ve seen that if followed correctly, this process can be beneficial for both parties,” he said.

Meanwhile, the financially embattled Bulls continue to add to their stocks by recruiting Springbok winger Cornal Hendricks.

The 30-year-old’s career has been put on hold for three years due to a heart condition that had different prognoses from different doctors.

However, it seems the Bulls – who had him on trail last year – are now satisfied with his health.

The union has already announced the acquisitions of Blitzbok Rosko Specman and Springbok talisman Duane Vermeulen.

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